Watching recent news unfurling a blanket of media coverage I'm struck by a typical bank holiday mix of anxiety and glee.
There's a fairground of attempts to rationalise events while we worry about where the next explosion will occur, yet also revelry in the simple fact of visceral combinations of shock and excitement. Dodgems in one direction, a Helter Skelter in the other. Freak shows and fortune tellers standing apart.
It doesn't matter which tent people gravitate towards there is a pervading mood ennervated by the certainty that something is happening. We may not know what that something is, but there is a sense that it is heading somewhere - and where that may be is inspiring a mixture of fear, trepidation, anticipation and agitiation. Only one thing is for certain: the momentum is irresistible. Just roll up and jump on the ride - it'll keep you on the edge of your seat.
In the big top are our representatives in Parliament, driven onwards by the circulations around and about.
The strong men have immediately diagnosed a 'sickness' in society, clowns express the outpourings of pain and tragedy while jugglers try to keep as many arguments in the air at one time as possible. But if you're now arguing about missing the performace the signs were there if you knew and cared where to look.
Even the plain fact that Parliament has now been recalled from recess twice in a matter of weeks should give an hint of the underlying carousel, even stepping back to the general election debate the over-reliance on security concerns were clearly exposed.
All that restraint and repression could only lead in one direction.
Media commentators and activists of all sorts were enthused about the prospects of social media technologies to aid engagement and enable us to break out of the chains, fueled by growing public competence in the ability to harness developing techniches for their usage. Cyber-warfare in Georgia was followed by protesters in Tehran using technology to organise and the first seedlings of innovation began to germinate.
A second idealistic stage marked by spring uprisings against Arab dictatorships and dissent at the official responses to the global financial crisis has now been struck by the growing reality that the situation on the ground isn't changed by warm words and consensus among the savvier classes possessing the vital commodity in this new media age - access.
And we could have realised this when the vultures began to circle over the breathing corpse of the old politics during the expenses scandal.
Perhaps we were correct that an unaccountable political culture using allowances to boost incomes was indicative of a tired and out-of-touch elite whose irresponsible complacency had allowed a combination of crises in banking and finance to balloon, but perhaps also we were able to use this to distract ourselves from the urgent requirement for effective solutions. From Barings Bank and Enron to credit default swaps and debt-financing the crumbling edifice masking corrupt and unsustainable practises could no longer be denied, but how could we prevent major collapses without storing up bigger problems?
When the rumbling phone-hacking scandal reached its' more recent zenith we saw how corporate and institutional elites became interwoven as narrow personal interests subsumed any wider public interests and treated individuals as fodder for the all-consuming machine. From Ant & Dec's profiteering to the scurrilous 'investigative' methods of reporters the true sensation was that and in how commercial imperatives were able to trump all else. And now the anger at those incidents which found no meaningful expression to channel itself has trickled its' way down to street level.
We might condemn or celebrate the criminality and attempts at bringing the return of order, but in doing so we are manipulating ourselves and allowing ourselves to be manipulated at every stage of the way by those more cynical and aware of the potential. So unless the public take the shock as a general wake-up call about the political impacts of every single choice and action then it won't end here; these few nights will be reviewed as a mild precursor of the devastating frosts ahead.
In classic British style, the situation is like a schoolyard scrap where even impassive observers are whisked into the baying crowd, egging-on the expression of animal impulses by chosen victims until the spectacle of confrontation satisfies the hunger of the impoverished powers that be. If we can't be patient for tomorrow's circus, then they'll tell us to amuse ourselves by fighting over the availability of cake while they amuse themselves by admonishing those who do!
There's nothing better than the milling around on the pier expectantly hoping to taste the possibility of a life less ordinary... or so we've been told. The thrill of the exclusive; the fantasy of the unbelievable; the yearning for the unobtainable - it's what makes us pliable, able to tolerate the moment... and willing to pay almost any price.
But this year rain on St Swithin's Day was followed in accordance with the prophecy by a drab and dreary summer - so no wonder then the lure of recuperation by the seaside was less appealling than a swift return to the Westminster hearth this year. What ambitious politico would want to huddle in their deckchair as they watch the incoming tide under a setting sun and fail to hold it back? It's chilling!
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