A conspicuous aspect of our current Prime Ministerial beauty contest is how irrelevant it all feels. Boris Johnson knew he needed to do something striking which seems to be why he seized on Brexit. This may have encouraged many of us to expect more, but although the coronavirus debacle intervened, Boris was never likely to deliver much more.
Political narratives framed by the media are problematic in a number of ways. One of them is that most aspects of real life go on in the background and work as they are supposed to. Problems, glitches and genuine catastrophes do happen of course, but do not loom over us on a permanent basis as presented by the media.
We were given a very clear view of this during the coronavirus debacle where it could be said without undue exaggeration that apart from the media, the private sector kept things going. GPs went into hiding, supermarket checkout staff didn’t. This gave us an unambiguous view of something else we already know – the media do not reflect the way things are, how real life is actually kept on the road.
The laptop on which I type these blog posts for example. Billions of components working together as they should. It’s a device which could be criticised, but is still a remarkable technical achievement which does what it is supposed to do extremely well.
The laptop is composed of other devices manufactured in huge quantities for markets requiring hundreds of millions or even billions of customers. As is my phone sitting on the table next to my chair. As is my Kindle which is also on the table.
On a smaller but equally interesting scale, we’ve used the Tesco online delivery service for over two years now and it works well. There are minor glitches of course, but nothing remotely comparable to the glitches we put up with from the NHS. Tesco glitches are quickly and smoothly corrected while our GP service is still worse than it was before the pandemic.
We’ve been Amazon customers for years and that works very well too. A colossal global business serving vast numbers of customers and it just works. Two more examples help make the point, which becomes increasingly obvious as political inadequacies also become increasingly obvious. These examples could be the large scale production of cotton or coconut products but there are many more.
There is no need to push this further except to reiterate that there are many huge businesses requiring huge numbers of customers to keep them going. Trillions of dollars worth of business activity. And our activity too – we are part of it.
Yet the point to be made is so vast and complex that it isn’t easy to encapsulate, especially as constant anti-business propaganda has always been with us, some of it deserved and some not, some sinister and some not. Either way, there are huge, interlinked global business activities with huge numbers of ordinary people as their customers. They need the little people, not a few rich people who travel by private jet.
This is not a claim that big business is on the side of the little people against totalitarian politics. This would be hopelessly unrealistic. It is a suggestion that there is some conflict of interest between totalitarian politics and huge businesses serving massive customer bases via processes which work as they are supposed to. It is a suggestion that traditional governments are becoming less relevant to all this.
Governments seem to have become more parasitic as they become less relevant to a world which appears to be leaving them behind. Authoritarian trends may be a counter to that. Not a surprising idea because many of major political and bureaucratic actors are parasites. Only as parasites are they relevant. This is a weakness.
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