Wednesday, 5 September 2012

Existentialism & Inevitabilty.

 Existentialists, by definition, make lousy strategists. Therefore one might not expect to find them working in politics.Having said that, Sartre, with his ever changing perception of what constituted his own reality may well have found a home in UKIP.

Jean-Paul Sartre, 1905-1980
Many years ago, I went through something of an existentialist phase. To be honest, I was having a strained relationship with my Commanding Officer, a lovely man, who took the role of father figure a bit too seriously and would often talk to me at great length about certain attitudes I was displaying. I decided that if I adopted a more Bohemian approach to my duties, and began quoting Corso and Ginsberg endlessly, I could really screw with his mind.

It worked, and he sort of gave up on me and left me to myself. Flight Lieutenant Montgomergy, "Monty", was as good a CO as you could ever ask for, and I hope that he is still with us. I also hope, for his own peace of mind, he has completely forgotten our talks.

Why do I mention this? Because something occured to me late last night that has set me to thinking...

Sartre challenged the concept of Inevitability.  (Actually, he challenged most things, but let's stick to inevitability).

"I have to get up for work", "I have to wear shoes today", etc, etc. This is inevitability, and it is Bull. We don't have to do anything, we choose to do what is best for us. Whatever gives us the greatest security, pleasure, or reward, is what we deem to be best. Sometimes, for reasons of altruism, we make our choice based on what is best for others, the point is that we must be prepared to transcend the demmands of societal norms if we are really to be ourselves..

British politics, defined by petty party-based parochialism, does seem to be wrapped in a cloak of inevitability.

Perhaps this is because of the convergence of political thought that means that ideology has been replaced within the political elites by management skills and spin. But Britain is not a bus service. It was, and surely can again become, the most outwardly looking, inventive, and economically successful nation on the planet. This requires thinking, and acting, outside of the box. I do not believe that the three largest parties are capable of this. UKIP is influenced too much by Thatcherism - a great idea at the time, and just what the country needed - but we do not need a 1970s solution to the problems of the 21st century. The Greens have influenced the thinking of all parties, and may now have passed their sell-by date. Old ideology is academic, and rarely relevant to the needs of the present day.

Having said that, were he still alive, Sartre would be the last person we need as PM. But wouldn't it be refreshing if David Cameron were to walk into the Cabinet Office one day and ask "Do we really have to do all of this?" Wouldn't it be great if instead of the bureaucratic grind that life in Britain has become, every single thing we did had the flair and panache of the London Olympics?

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