Everything is broken all of the time

Another US election looms, another lockdown. Remarkable that in one of the world’s leading democracies, it’s only one side that urges people to vote while the other does everything it can to stop them. Even more remarkable that those Democrats urging people to be democrats still restrict their messaging to the imperative “Vote” and don’t even postmodify the verb with what they really ought to be saying, which is “Vote Democrat”. How insane is it to live in a world where the prevailing belief on the political sort-of left is that they don’t want to offend their mouth-breathing, foam-flecked opponents by actually opposing them.

I’m not sure, in the end, that the narrative about how difficult it is to vote is useful for the Democrats. There’s only one reasonable response to voter suppression, which is to get out on the street and start throwing rocks. Admittedly, this is foolhardy when the wrong side has all the guns, which brings you back to the ‘make a plan to vote’ narrative. I’ve always wondered why the American left doesn’t similarly arm itself.

When I was studying US history, you got this vision of the moustache twirling villains of Reconstruction and Jim Crow, who denied people their rights. It’s easy to look back and be appalled, to view Johnson’s 1965 Civil Rights Act as a triumphant culmination of years of struggle; much harder to be in the midst of history being made by today’s moustache-twirling villains, with the struggle ongoing. And no comfort to think that, in another 50 years perhaps, people will again look back appalled at today’s villainy.

Such are the paradoxes of an American election, where so much is at stake but the system so broken that it’s almost impossible for the (clear) majority to win. And the system is so broken that even if the majority were to win, they still wouldn’t be able to fix the system. I’m talking about the packed Supreme Court, the ridiculous Electoral College (that gifted victory to the loser, Trump, last time), and the absolutely shocking state of the Senate, where Wyoming (pop. 580,000) has the same number of senators as California (pop. 39,500,000). This is what despair is: this will never be fixed. This is not a country. It’s a system set up by capitalists to ensure that they can never be defeated.

Which brings me to our own particular paradoxes, in this country where the majority of people voted against their own right to free movement because of a few misleading Daily Mail headlines about immigration.

You can’t win arguments with facts is the lesson of the last 15 years or so. And just as Trump knows that he can announce whatever the fuck he wants because the media will dutifully report everything he says but nobody will pay attention to any follow up, our own government got into power by announcing an ‘oven ready’ Brexit deal and various other lies. When these announcements turn out to be misleading, or outright lies, or simply to end in failure, the facts still don’t get in the way of the original story. This is the paradox of narratives (which is what my PhD was all about), and it’s exactly what I was talking about around this time four years ago, when I discussed how difficult paradigm shifts really are. Leopards break into the temple.

Trump announced a big Chinese factory on American soil in 2017, which never came to pass, as The Verge reports. Will this lose him votes? No. Trump lied that he would build a 2000-mile wall along the US-Mexico border, and has not. Will this cost him votes? Nope. Earlier this year, Trump announced a massive loan to Kodak so it could start producing pharmaceuticals, which it did not, and the loan wasn’t real either. Will this cost him votes? You decide.

And here in Britain (pronounced B-rotten), we’ve had announcement after announcement about testing and tracing and tiers and lockdowns, and none of it is real.

During lockdown mk1, was it really a lockdown? No, because of course millions of ‘essential workers’ from NHS staff to supermarket workers to delivery drivers, carried on working. My daughter went in to Tesco five days a week and got exposed to hundreds of people every day, many of whom refused to wear masks (properly) or ignored physical distancing rules and one way systems etc. And teachers were all in at school on a rota, and towards the end, some were in almost every day.

So now lockdown mark 2 is looming, but of course, it won’t be a lockdown. The supermarkets will still be open, and this time they won’t even pretend to close the schools. And in every classroom, in every cramped school corridor, and in every playground, every day, there are dozens and dozens of potential exposures. Any teacher will tell you that adolescents simply cannot keep their hands off each other. The girls are hugging and the boys and pushing and shoving, and it doesn’t matter how much you remind them not to do it.

So lockdown-not-a-lockdown it will be, just like test-and-trace isn’t really working, and the long-delayed NHS covid exposure app isn’t really a thing (people are being told not to use it, or to ignore it, and are told they won’t be paid if they self-isolate because of it). Meanwhile, those of us who are going into work are being set up for the blame in case of an outbreak. If you slow it down a bit, you can hear the dog whistle.

And over the other side of the ocean, it’s a democratic-but-not-democratic election which is also being set up to fail by a person who knows that if he announces that it won’t be legitimate if he loses, nobody will remember that he said that if he wins.

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