I do not read a newspaper. The only television I watch is “Doctor Who”, “Strictly Come Dancing”, snooker, and occasionally “Mythbusters” if I’m around when the kids are watching it. I used to to watch “Have I Got News For You”, but now I find it too unpleasant to watch anything that takes politics as seriously as it does. I cannot remember ever being able to watch “Question Time” or any serious political reporting without descending into a screaming rage.
Should you be like me? Absolutely not. I am not nearly detached enough from politics. I look at Google News. I follow people on Twitter who talk about current affairs. I see the headlines on the newsstands. All these are things that should be avoided as if they were heroin or crystal meth. Maybe a better analogy would be that they are ritually unclean and one should be cleansed or purged after exposure to them.
An example of my contaminated, junkie state is that I became aware, somehow, that Jeremy Clarkson had said that striking public sector workers should be shot. O, for a mode of living by which I could have avoided knowing such a thing!
Now I find out, from Language Log, that when he made those remarks, not only was he joking, as everybody already knows, but he was explicitly, in so many words, parodying himself and his “BBC token right-wing nutjob” persona.
With the proper perspective, this makes no difference. Whether he was making a joke about the strikers, making a joke about his other jokes, or even if he was completely serious, it still wouldn’t be important enough for any intelligent person to give it a moment’s thought. But for those without the proper perspective; for those, like myself, who are far too wrapped up in the political process, in that we look at the headlines on Google News a couple of times a day and know who the Prime Minister is, it is a vital reminder. This thing, which was obviously a pointless fuss about something of absolutely no importance, was actually a pointless fuss about nothing at all.
And every other story is the same.”Nick Clegg has committed the government to a crackdown on excessive executive pay”. What does that mean? It means nothing. It means no more than that Jeremy Clarkson wants to shoot strikers. It means less than that Holly Valance’s paso doble was better than Chelsee Healey’s jive. Nick Clegg is a meaningless figurehead of a meaningless junior coalition partner involved in meaningless posturing, while the decisions actually being made, which have an effect somewhere between nothing and negligible, are being made elsewhere. That sounds like I am positing some hidden conspiracy—if only! The real decisions are being made essentially at random, swayed by forces that are as large and as ill-understood as the climate, and by whoever by accident happens to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, for reasons that are as remote from anything we might care about as a butterfly’s wings in Brazil.
Teach us to care and not to care.
Teach us to sit still.