Friday, September 17, 2004
The 'X' Factor. posted by Richard SeymourThe infiltrations of parliament and Buckingham Palace by Fathers 4 Justice, as well as the storming of the Commons by a parcel of fuckwits in favour of fox-hunting this week have raised an interesting ideological spectre. Yesterday morning's acerbic report from Simon Hoggart on the intrusion by pro-hunt protesters noted that, when confronted with Labour front-bench ministers, they breathlessly uttered a serious of garbled, resentful statements that doubtless had some meaning before the cross-over between brain and mouth. One of them said "This government. You've mucked up pensions. You've mucked up everything." After which he succumbed to his inner maggots and exploded into a shower of carrion - or something, I didn't read the rest.
I can understand that, however. Imagine confronting the actual person behind it all, the one responsible for all your ills! What do you say, when you discover the unimpressive and slightly alarmed figure behind all the carefully crafted demonisations? You'd just pour your heart out, wouldn't you, in precisely that incoherent way. "Ah, you bastards, you've let that Harold Shipman kill all them old people, you've done away with the pound, er..." What else is there to do?
But isn't it strange how protest seems to have involved a lot of penetrating this enclosed space, this theatre of power-struggle that is represented to us on the news but never disclosed in the flesh. Even if you want to see it in real time from the gallery, you have to go through an intensive search, give up all items from your pockets, surrender your coat etc. And you must agree not to make a noise, pick your nose, make any rude hand gestures etc. (I went there myself once, and had the pleasure of being eyed suspiciously by Brian Mawhinney MP). However, to get into that phantasmatic space, irupt into its core - you'd actually think you were busting right into the centre of power. The hidden assumption is that power has some final stopping point, some person or persons at the end of a chain of command whom one can demand to see and shoot if necessary.
But even in terms of private companies, this is no longer the case. Ownership is usually diffuse, managers are responsible to shareholders, and power is delegated down and out in increasingly specialised ways. It isn't that there is a capitalist who controls the levers and dispenses orders. Similarly, there is no chain of power leading up to parliament, and no hidden 'X' of authority once you get there. Far from encountering the human face of power etc., you discover the human faces of over-worked, cynical, seasoned politicians with only a limited and minor say in how the country is actually run. It is a failure in cognitive mapping, an inability to see power as anything but an open or concealed conspiracy, a direct organisation of people into structures and roles. Hence, the pathos of the spectacle in which angry, militant furry-bangers can only scamper around the chambers for a few seconds before realising that there's nothing going on there, and the real problem they face is in the wider society.
It is for that reason doubly pathetic that the Countryside Alliance and its allies continue with the stupid disavowal of the fact that they have virtually no support in the population at large, that they are a privileged clique of campaigners with some knack for tapping the concerns of the rural poor. Since they cannot acknowledge that it is society as a whole that they have to contend with, the continue to pretend to themselves that it was "this government" or the police or "the Blair State" that boned them. Power, for these shite-specked flabby potato-sacks, cannot be represented as anything but a cabal, a secret meeting, a closed committee, a con, a work, a fix. What they miss, inevitably, is structure.