Saturday, 2 May 2015

Jog on, Jolyon

This is principally a post about how thunderously unimpressed I was by Jolyon Rubinstein's appearance on BBC's This Week (with Andrew Neil) on Thursday night.  A self-appointed ambassador for 'young people' who claims to be a satirist speaking out against 'the establishment', Rubinstein is part of the general 'anti-politics' movement.  You know the sort… Nobody speaks for me, nothing makes any difference, all politicians are bastards, there aren't any more blackcurrant ones left in my packet of Wine Gums, etc., etc., whinge, whinge.

Rubinstein's VT for This Week began with "so why did we deliver a truck full of bullshit to the Houses Of Parliament?  Because Parliament's the naturally-occurring habitat of bullshit!"  Yes, very droll.  What an astute observation.  Such biting satire.

Back on the This Week sofa, his 'go-to' trope was the invasion of Iraq in 2003.  This, apparently, is why young people are so disengaged from politics.  A cock-up it may have been, but I get the feeling people of my generation will still be spluttering "…but, Iraq!" as a rebuttal to any political point in another forty years.  But Rubinstein and his ilk will always prefer a lazy soundbite to any informed political analysis – the latter, after all, might not fit his neat, pre-determined world view.

This was made abundantly clear when – still riffing on Iraq – Rubinstein claimed that young people today were more 'turned off' politics than ever before, and that this was the fault of politicians (who else?!) for being more sleazy, more corrupt, more dishonest and more greedy than ever before.  Alan Johnson made a comparison with the Suez Crisis; Rubinstein tried to claim that this wasn't the same, because there were not "allegations that the invasion was based on a falsehood" – and in doing so, showed up his total ignorance of the subject.

This is the fundamental flaw with attempts to engage 'young people' with politics.  Jolyon Rubinstein embodies the very worst of 'young people' – insular, self-absorbed and inward-looking, and utterly dismissive of anything not within his direct frame of reference.  To Rubinstein, the Suez Crisis didn't count because it didn't happen to him; the Iraq invasion must have been a much worse scandal, with far more wide-reaching ramifications, because he (and other 'young people') can relate to it.

The whole time that Johnson and Michael Portillo were speaking to him (both of them making excellent, well-supported, rational points – or so I thought, anyway), Rubsinstein sat opposite rolling his eyes, looking surly and disinterested.

Rubinstein's insistence that our generation is different, is special, and has things so much harder than the generations who came before (even though, actually, the opposite is almost certainly true), and that anyone belonging to an older generation couldn't possibly know what life is like for us was just embarrassing – these are the sentiments you express when, brimming over with adolescent angst, you join your first band at the age of fifteen, wear your hair almost entirely covering your face, and write terrible, angry songs about how nobody understands you.

This arrogantly maudlin, self-indulgent wallowing might be acceptable in teenagers who know no better, but who will inevitably mature, grow out of it, and go on to write heart-rending break-up albums instead; it's pretty cringeworthy to see this proffered up on national television, masquerading as serious political commentary.

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