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Sunday, October 2, 2011

THE SHOW: pols, pimps, panderers, pathos

“Donkeys led by donkeys” — 
Will Self apropos the season
Excerpt, minor edit, adapted by Carolyn Bennett from 
English writer Will Self’s BBC print and audio commentary

Richard M. Nixon (right) accepting the Republican Party’s
U.S. presidential nomination with Gerald R. Ford, 1968
“[T]here is a … pathetic phenomenon in the field of human endeavor and that is donkeys being led by donkeys. It occurs in warfare, certainly; it also happens in that introversion of the aggressive impulse we call democratic politics.”

Pols’ theater, people’s pathos

“In the past few years, we … have taken an almost perverse pride in the self-immolation of our political class. Fiddling their expenses, kowtowing to media moguls, bowing down before psychopathic dictators, groveling to security-averse bankers — is there, we wonder, any further baseness to which our erstwhile governors will not descend?

“… [S]o we urge them on in their corrupt limbo-dance, while gaily chanting ‘how low can you go?’

“Of course, as with any binary moral judgment, implicit in our condemnation of ‘them’ is our exaltation of ‘us.’ We aren’t like them — vain, duplicitous and meretricious. We are sanctified by the fact of our apathy alone. After all, if we do nothing we cannot reasonably be blamed for anything.

Jimmy Carter (right) with Walter F. Mondale,
Democratic National Convention, July 1976
Nevertheless, we are blamed. Blamed for our very refusal to play a bigger role in the civic realm apart from once every [few years] or so milling around the polling booth with the rest of the extras. …

“Commitment, responsibility, engagement — these are just some of the buzzwords that resound around the conference centers of provincial cities …. Doubtless, [this or that party leader touts] … the much-vaunted Big Society … Yet looking at the neatly-bridled donkeys on the platforms and listening to them bray, [it strikes one as] too easy to lay all the blame for the straw-like insubstantiality of  contemporary … politics at their stable door. …”

Pimps or panderers

[Party membership?] …  “If those of us who do not belong to any of the main political parties ever have cause to doubt ourselves, we need only take the most cursory of looks at these endlessly [easily led farm horses] in order to confirm us in our righteousness.

“[I]s there anything more supine on this fair earth than a party conference audience rising to deliver a standing ovation? Carefully orchestrated by party stewards, these so-called activists display a mental passivity that makes the average X Factor audience look like the participants in one of Plato’s symposia. And can we think of any benighted populace, ground beneath the jackboot of state tyranny, who would so speedily and rhapsodically declare that this hackneyed phraseology represented the very flower of rhetoric? …  

“[L]est we imagine that party members only succumb to a herd mentality when they’re corralled together and issued regulation colored saddle cloths, it’s worth examining the breed in isolation.  …

“‘Which … precisely, of your [followers’] ideas and principles did the government formed by the party to which you lend your unswerving allegiance actually transform into effective legislation?’”

[punt, evade]

U.S. Democratic Party pin - Britannica
“…This kind of politicking is something we have come to take for granted. Indeed, to be a ‘consummate politician’ is in our lexicon synonymous with being blandly evasive. We have come, sadly, to take it for granted that our political leaders and their followers will also spend a disproportionate amount of time butting and biting members of their own herd.

“The only point at which a halt is called to this internecine idiocy is when an election is called — and then a disproportionate amount of time gets spent butting and biting the other herds.


“[T]he adversarial character of our politics paradoxically induces a deadening conformism. Indeed, it is the inverse correlation between the fissiparous [divisive] character of the major parties and the winnowing away of their convictions, over and above everything else, that has characterized… politics during the past quarter-century. …

“Is it any wonder that such a charade is a massive turn-off to a public that see real issues, pressing concerns and genuine anxieties at every turn? The main parties continue to hemorrhage members, while those left behind are those who prefer to be clots. …

U.S. Republican Party pin - Britannica
“‘The best lack all conviction, while the worst / Are full of passionate intensity.’ Evoked, that is, with this caveat: the passionate intensity of [major party pols] … and [followers] frenziedly applauding masks a vanishingly small amount of real conviction.

“[W]hat should trouble our sight are homely silhouettes of donkeys led by donkeys [Hee-haw] trotting back to their paddocks ….”

Sources and notes

BBC News - “A Point of View: Party activists should escape the herd,”

See also: A Point of View - Political party membership
Will Self attacks people who join political parties, calling them 'donkeys led by donkeys' who repeatedly see their principles betrayed by the actions of their leaders,  http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b0151xtb/A_Point_of_View_Political_party_membership/

“The best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity”
William Butler Yeats (author: poet, Irish, June 13, 1865-January 28, 1939)

William Self
Will Self, writer (fiction, nonfiction, short stories), English, born in 1961, http://literature.britishcouncil.org/will-self; William Woodard (Will) Self (born September 26, 1961), English novelist and short- story writer whose “fictional style is known for being satirical, grotesque and fantastical. He is a prolific commentator on contemporary British life, with regular appearances on Newsnight and Question Time. He has also appeared on the comedy panel show “Have I Got News for You.” [Wikipedia]

The ‘X Factor’ show title refers to the indefinable ‘something’ that makes for star quality.

Britannica captions

Richard M. Nixon (right) accepting the Republican Party’s U.S. presidential nomination in 1968, with Gerald R. Ford, Republican leader of the House of Representatives. AP

Jimmy Carter and Walter F. Mondale on the platform at the Democratic National Convention, July 1976, Detroit, Michigan. © Bettmann/Corbis

U.S. Democratic Party pin, date unknown, Americana/Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc.
U.S. Republican Party pin, Americana/Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc.


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