Sunday, 6 September 2009
Politics and Tall Poppy Syndrome
Populism is, I suppose, a good thing. Typically a politics of self-representation for 'the people' as opposed to the elite, there is something intrinsically democratic about it. The problem of this populism at present is that it is going too far - shifting casually towards anti-intellectualism.
The MPs expenses scandal has exposed a hidden truth about our political process, but was nonetheless blown out of proportion by the press, especially the Telegraph who, it could be said, have ulterior motives in denigrating all of the major parties, what with their sympathies with UKIP. The result of this has been a backlash against politicians - they are now treated as a having homogeneous pathology. "They're all as bad as each other" opens the door to a new generation of politics - the 'politics of the people'. The term 'career politician' is highly derogatory now; overlooking here the fact that being in the profession for a considerable time is sure to lend itself to expertise. The consensus seems to be developing that a good politician has to be one of the people and this is lending itself to UKIP, BNP and the beast of burden for Doncaster, the English Democrats. English Democrat mayor Peter Davies fought his campaign almost entirely upon populist policies - he cut his own salary to £30,000, asserted that he is a 'common sense' politician and emphasised transparency. This is all well and good, but obstructs the fact that his policies and ideology are illiberal, unintelligent and averse to substance. He proudly decried, for example, that he 'doesn't subscribe to that religion that we're all supposed to believe in these days' - this religion being the scientifically-backed truth that we are causing global warming.
The growth of this populism is leading towards a 'Tall poppy syndrome' - Someone is said to be a target of tall poppy syndrome when his or her assumption of a higher economic, social, or political position is criticised as being presumptuous, attention seeking, or without merit. Alternatively, it is seen as a societal phenomenon in which people of genuine merit are criticised or resented because their talents or achievements elevate them above or distinguish them from their peers. Effectively, what could develop is a situation in which learning and social mobility, even one's interest in politics, could all become detrimental to an electoral candidates chances. Cutting salaries and expenses is part of the process - it will devalue the position of being an MP. In the same way that teaching became devalued as the entry standards dropped, less capable people will be more willing to stand for office.
In the words of Morrissey, we hate it when our friends become successful...if we can destroy them, you bet your life we will destroy them.
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A member of a community, in order to represent his neighbours, would have to be as similar to them as possible. Any who get too big for their boots; who try too hard, work too hard, know to much or are too capable, will be frowned upon. In effect, the tallest poppies will be decapitated in order that all the poppies are the same height. This move towards the democracy of populism should be watched carefully, to make sure it doesn't go too far.