In a recent post on the Dark Mountain blog, it was claimed that 2016 was the year that magic entered into politics. Perhaps that sounds weird, but read it and see – there’s a point here, that people resort to thinking in mythological terms when the prevailing culture doesn’t enable them to express ideas which are important to them, and I am sympathetic to that idea.
Whether on the right, cracking down on personal liberties and freedoms in the name of security and the growth economy, or the left, where liberals in favour of a more open society and individual choice in so many things, nonetheless appear to believe that large swathes of the population are too stupid, superstitious or short-sighted to see beyond their own well-being, the most conspicuous effect of current politics has been the silencing of the poor.
Whether you are a community trying to protect access to your own countryside (nimbys, or greedy farmers, or philistines who don’t know enough to care for their own environment), unionists trying to protect working conditions (luddites, unable to keep up with the real world), or families concerned about housing, work-life balance, their children’s education and prospects, their access to proper healthcare ( yummy mummies, sentimental or self-indulgent) – or any sort of political campaigning for anything apart from more money, more homes, more jobs for the favoured few – we are likely to be told we don’t know what we are talking about, real life is not like that, we haven’t the skills, the knowledge or the experience – and we’re all tired of experts, aren’t we? Keep to the point, can’t you, we all know you can’t buck the market.
Well, magical thinking or not, I think we can. People don’t always do what’s reasonable, or measure what’s reasonable in the strictly pragmatic terms we are told we should. Turkeys do vote for Christmas (more’s the pity, sometimes). People give up good jobs to be creative. People will pay more for their goods than the going rate out of ethical concerns. People do sacrifice a comfortable lifestyle from passion for the environment, religious convictions, compassion for their neighbours. People do take the risk of reaching out to strangers, welcoming refugees giving a convict a second chance, negotiating with the enemy.
There’s more to human life than a warm house, and a safe job, and it is the first sign of an oppressive political regime (political, industrial or domestic) to deny it. We are all entitled to friendship, beauty, ethics, creativity, a home, a history, a philosophy, a sense of purpose and meaning in the world. If it takes magical thinking and mythological metaphors to express it, so be it, let’s have a lot more of it.
My own personal act of ‘magical’ thinking is to join an organisation called Pax Christi, which believes in peace through justice, reconciliation and non-violence. I have to say I am the lamest member on their books, as I don’t do anything but pay my subscription, but today has been designated Peace Sunday, and we have been asked to tell people why we joined. I think I can do that much!
I think that among the poor who have been silenced, spoken for or spoken over, are people who don’t conform to the ‘sheepul’ model of politics, who are already doing the work of peace and reconciliation, of welcome and compassion, and I want to honour them. I genuinely believe that people will begin to transcend their fears and hostilities if there is a climate of opinion where peace-making is respected and valued as much as ‘standing up for your principles’ has been. Among the ‘huldra-folk’ I want to allow to come into the light are the healers and the makers, the quiet comforters, the honest brokers, the truth-tellers. I would very much like to live in a society where they are our leaders, our celebrities, our heroes.