UpFront 08/19

As the clock ticked ever closer to midday on Tuesday, July 23rd—one of the hottest days of the year so far—it was hard to concentrate on a daily routine due to the imminent election of the next Prime Minister. Amongst those who felt that bending or avoiding the truth isn’t a talent to smirk about, there was an unease that was gradually escalating to a feeling of impending doom. Whilst amongst those who believed bluff, bluster and big promises was a recipe for political stability within their own party, there was a sense of excitement. So with a small desk fan pushing warm air around the room, I decided to take an early lunch and watch the parade of commentators and pundits trying to muster some enthusiasm for the moment ahead. The clock ticked some more, and I promptly fell asleep. When my snoring eventually woke me, Boris Johnson had been voted in as head of the Conservative Party and therefore the next Prime Minister. So along with the other more than 99% who didn’t vote, I went back at work. Coincidentally one of the first things I read was a recently published report called Understanding our Political Nature: How to put knowledge and reason at the heart of political decision-making. It was produced for the Joint Research Centre in Brussels by sixty experts from across the globe who worked in the fields of behavioural and social sciences as well as the humanities. The opening sentence suggested that humans do not always think rationally and that it is problematic to base politics on the assumption that they do. The report went on to highlight things that many people have been concerned about for some time, such as the view that facts don’t tend to change people’s minds because they don’t want to hear things that challenge their beliefs, especially from an opposing political platform. Or that we are increasingly exposed to misinformation and that constant lying doesn’t mean that we always eventually believe the lies; it means we stop believing in anything. The consequence is that we find it difficult to make decisions. After months on the roller-coaster of British politics, I imagine I’m not the only one who fell asleep at the decisive moment this week. Many people are simply beaten into submission and want it all to be over. Whilst some hope Boris can pull a rabbit out of a hat, many others feel like rabbits in the headlight of an out of control bicycle, driven by what one wag described as ‘a mayonnaise covered potato dipped into a bucket of straw.’ We stand in the middle of the road, fingers crossed; eyes tightly shut, hoping that what we can’t see can’t hurt us.