Dancing in the shadow of the wall

Douglas Carswell, the sole UKIP member of parliament, tweeted this the other day.

This was in response to Telegraph writer Jeremy Warner receiving criticism for referring to the new Shadow Chancellor as a “nutjob,” but the context isn’t really important. What interested me is that Douglas had distilled a growing view of left-wing politics down into quite a neat little phrase. Leftism-as-a-state-of-righteous-outrage.

I retweeted and made a snarky little comment on it, but the phrase kept returning to me, and I began to see the same opinion expressed everywhere in Conservative writing.  In tweets, in blog posts, in newspapers…ignore it, it’s just lefty outrage. Ignore it, the left are so predictable. Ignore it, they complain about everything, it’s meaningless.

And it goes further, here’s Tony Parsons pretending that his Conservatism is reluctant and characterising anybody still left-leaning as (dog whistle warning) “shrill keyboard comrades,” who “lost the argument and now…howl in the wilderness.” So far so predictable, but we also “scream…about [our] own compassion while bandying around epithets like ‘scum’ and ‘filth’ with the vicious abandon of Nazis talking about Jews.” Whoa, really, Tony? We’re like NAZIS now?

Oh, wait, of course we are! Complain about sexist, patronising behaviour by men online and you’ll be lambasted as a Feminazi as well as sent a stream of abuse.

The narrative is this: those inside the castle walls are sensible, mature, level-headed.

We’re safe inside these walls. We have money. We have food. We have weapons. We have the media. We have power.  We have the walls. That noise you can hear outside? Oh that’s just the lefties hurling themselves against the walls. Ignore it. They’ll hurl themselves against any wall. They’re jealous of what we have. They want what we have. But look at them, they can’t even organise themselves into a proper siege. And they’re evil too. Like Nazis. Why can’t they just join us in the castle like that nice Mr Blair did? Oh well, never mind, the walls are strong and will keep them out. Ignore them. Unleash another flight of arrows at them and then let’s have a game of croquet.

And they’re right. It does feel like hurling yourself against a wall sometimes.

The new cool is the world-weary eye-roll at anybody who complains about anything. Say you think that adverts shouldn’t be sexist, that women should be able to walk a street without fear of harassment, that it would be cool if maybe there was more diversity in boardrooms, in governments, in the professions, that people should have the same chances and be rewarded equally, that we should take responsibility for the repercussions of our foreign policy, that maybe men should deal with their own issues…and you’ll be met with a huge sigh.

They’re at it again, banging on the walls. Bloody lefties.

Then they’ll release the dogs. Make a few death threats.

Who cares? Ignore them. It’s fun in the castle. It’s safe. If they don’t want to be in here too, they deserve all they get.

Does it matter? Well I think it does. I think a society that is developing such disdain for those who ask awkward questions, for those who speak truth to power, is a dangerous society indeed. The sort of society which is ripe for something truly evil to grow within it and allow everybody to say they didn’t know until it was too late. They’d have stopped it if they could, but how could they?

Nobody told us about it. Well, ok, some people did, but we just ignored them. We thought it was just that leftism-as-righteous-outrage thing.

So, fellow shrill keyboard comrades, what to do about it?

Accept defeat, put down our red flags and our primitive slings, and slink into the castle? Do a Tony Parsons and become the jester, sniggering at those he used to call friends for the amusement of the court? That’s not for me, thanks, but enjoy the continued disdain of both sides, Tony.

Organise better? Start our own little castle? Build a great big trebuchet together? I doubt it, we’re all attacking the castle from different angles, with different weapons, for different reasons. There is no consensus in protest, and nor should there be. So that’s out.

No, for me, I’m quietly digging. I’m getting my spade and digging a hole under the walls. Undermining them. And I’m singing and dancing while I do it. I’m laughing and joking. I’m painting on a toothbrush moustache and doing a silly walk when they call me a Nazi. I’m wearing a white sequinned jumpsuit and kung fu kicking the arrows they fire at me. I’m stopping sometimes to enjoy the view and the fresh air, and going for a walk and talking to the birds. I’m laughing at those who are so proud of their walls and their safety, who don’t realise they’ve imprisoned themselves, and don’t realise that their lifeless bodies will be thrown over the wall when they’ve outlived their usefulness. I’m mocking those who think that I think I can bring the wall down with my little spade. I don’t. Just making it a little weaker is enough for me.

And maybe, just maybe, a couple of people watching from the walls might think, “Hey that looks like fun, this castle is kind of boring now I think about it, and these people I have to eat my dinner with, UGH!” and they might let down a rope, climb down, and start digging and dancing and laughing too.

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