Thursday, June 8, 2017

All aboard for Desolation Road



We need to talk about politics. For some in the outdoor community, that’s a signal to run for the hills. Let’s keep friction and controversy out of the equation and instead talk about how many hours you need to spend on the wall to maintain standards or wax lyrical about Jet Black’s awesome new sports route in Mugglethorpe Quarry. For many others though in the outdoor community, talking politics an essential part of who they are. Especially through the conduit of the social media. I recall a well known North Wales climber was once sitting in a club hut surrounded by excited young companions discussing politics when, unable to contain his frustration any longer, he slammed his fist on the table and exclaimed..’enough of this...let’s get back to talking about climbing!’

For anyone brought up immersed in politics, its an odd perspective. As outdoor activists, politics informs everything we do.From access issues to ecological degradation; Climate change impact to regional instability in traditional destinations. How can anyone who climbs, rambles, paddles, sails, bikes etc, not be interested in issues which impact upon their chosen activity?

The advent of social media,particularly Facebook, has changed the game of political communication completely. Whereas in the recent past, forums like UK Climbing were the only places you could have a good old rant. These days the ranter can unburden themselves in the Guardian or Independent comments section, but more especially, on their Facebook page which has the advantage of being uncensored and unlimited. This of course is a double edged sword. Although we tend to be attracted to those who generally share our political beliefs, it can spill over into quite bitter acrimony. Especially when others outside of your own circle pile in with comments.

Probably even more of a problem than a spot of verbal aggro in the comments section is the way the social media distorts one’s political perspective. ‘The Facebook Bubble’ is that phenomena where a member of a friendship circle gains a false impression of political reality by only reading comments and seeing ‘likes’ from those who share their point of view. Despite evidence to the contrary being all too readily available, there is often a refusal to confront the obvious truth when it appears that all the evidence points to a different truth.

This was most obvious in the post Brexit social media world. Despite the result being close, the 4% margin was pretty conclusive and it soon became clear that both the Tory government and a future Labour government would respect and implement an exit from the EU. Despite this, many liberals became convulsed with emotions which all to quickly bore all the hallmarks of the Kubler-Ross model for the stages of grief. Denial-Anger-Bargaining-Depression, and twelve months on, for the majority at least- acceptance.

Remarkably, just after the Referendum vote, previously ‘right-on’ Liberals were wishing the elderly dead and fermenting with anger against the working/underclasses and the under-educated. Constituencies whose rights the left were traditionally supposed to champion!  Even the Welsh and Northern English received the sort of bigoted abuse from metropolitan europhiles which previously had only been used by right wing knuckleheads. For months this constituency believed it could do something which had never been done since democracy was first established in Great Britain. Overturn a democratic vote and award victory to the side with the least votes. This curious example of velveteen fascism was vigorously pursued without any concern it appeared, of the brutal irony. Those supposedly on the left who felt that middle class voters with qualifications and careers should have their votes weighted favourably against the underdogs. It was turning back the clock a hundred years to a time when the same arguments were used against women having the vote.

Despite having a remarkable belief that democracy could be overturned by petitions, marches and repeating the mantra ‘it was only advisory’, the mathematics of the vote only told half the story. It has become clear in recent months that the true margin between the Euro Sceptics and Europhiles is far greater than the vote suggested. For a start, a large number of Leave voters stayed at home after being convinced that it was in the bag for the Remain. Also, a large section of Remain voters were reluctant Remainers. Either convinced by government propaganda that the UK would sink into immediate chaos, or sticking with the principle , Better the Devil you know. The recent polls showing only one in five now think the UK should stay in the EU is a striking example of how social media delusion can mask reality and shows that sometimes, even such an apparently indisputable statistic often masks a deeper truth.

Meanwhile, back here on June 8th, 2017 and the General Election promises more of the same. Hope and optimism trumped...sorry to use that word... by its old foes,disappointment anger and confusion. Like most people in the Outdoor Community, I would love to see a Labour Government tomorrow replacing the vile, self serving Tories.  Even better if it was supported by a the SNP, Plaid Cymru and Greens. The Tories worst nightmare..... 'A Coalition of Chaos’! However, I fear that remains just a faint hope. I expect a comfortable Conservative victory followed by five more years of austerity, division, bitterness, acrimony and the predictable diminishment of public services and the NHS.

At least there’s always to mountains to escape to.


So.....24 hours later and it appears there probably will be a 'Coalition of Chaos' but not the one we hoped for. A Tory/DUP minority administration. Delivered as a Pyrrhic victory to a soon to be ex Prime minister who was hoisted by her own petard. An arrogant, hubristic attempt to destroy the Labour Party which ended up exploding like a firework in May's face. Corbyn and his Momentum followers were brilliant while the majority of his back stabbing MP's should just crawl back under their stones and let real Labour candidates fight the next election for Labour.
It was pretty devastating to see the SNP lose so much ground in Scotland, but as I've suggested above, that in part was due to the SNP rather foolishly allowing themselves to be a zealously pro EU party when a large chunk of the electorate are Euro sceptic.
But the real winners of the June election-expect another one in October- have been the young. A previously maligned constituency who finally got their act together and voted in large numbers. In the main for Corbyn's radical brand of politics.


All of a sudden, the future looks a lot brighter.






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