It’s a word I hadn’t used, or considered using, before a few years ago. It usually only turned up on TV when people were taking the piss out of lefties, or when actual lefties talked to me about politics. Frankly, being ill-read, I didn’t really know what people meant by it. This seemed problematic for a word that is generally used as an insult, but now it all makes sense. The people being insulted can’t possibly understand what it means, nor are they meant to; they’re almost certainly not part of the conversation. Anyone who understands it will know what it means, why it is insulting, and why they are using it to describe Adam, Toby, or whoever is being discussed.
Coincidentally it was another ‘B’ word that led me to this enlightenment: Brexit.
The Brexit vote happened during my time in the U.S. of Arse, far away for the raw heat of the societal tear which caused the eruption of red hot fury to launch forth from beneath. It was bizarre to observe. There were three main factions:
- Ignorant racists.
- Anti capitalists.
- Bourgeois people who were concerned about the effect of the price of Camembert, retirement opportunities in Spain and the availability of cheap plumbers.
It turns out that the majority of my friends are number 3. I used to think they were lefties. No. What they are is the archetype of bourgeois.
As the UK was being carefully separated into rich and poor by the ancient ruling elites, all anyone I knew was complaining about was fucking Brexit. The NHS had been whittled away for the last 30 years, and the welfare state was unusably fucked, leading to the mass homelessness, suicides, dependence on foodbanks, and deaths as a result.
Meanwhile, the neoliberal bourgeois masses were protesting: about the UK not being part of the European trading gang-bang. They whined about how difficult it would be to import and export goods from the Europe, as if they had ever had first hand experience of doing it before or since the existence of the EU.
They sought solace in speeches from knights of the center right like Michael Heseltine, Kenneth Clarke and John Twatting Major.
Then the election came.
Pressure from the bourgeois activists led the only left-wing party, Labour, to shift its policy to supporting a second referendum
Boom. Overnight they lost factions 1 and 2 (see above) Obviously faction 1 can fuck off (despite consisting of a large and misguided section of the population)… but faction 2 was underestimated. Labour got more votes than ever before. But not enough to win.
In the smoking remains of the aftermath, things look clearer to everyone who lost.
The bourgeoisie see that the fault is with me and my selfish desire to fix the NHS and public spending. Why was I so “hard left”? Why couldn’t I be more…
The word “pragmatic” is a shibboleth among the bourgeoisie and is code for shifting further right. They believe there is a large body of ignorant right-wing people who need to be appeased. And they’re right: themselves!
The opposite of “pragmatism” is “ideology” which has now become associated with lunacy: at least the current leaders are using lubricant! If we don’t keep voting for them we’ll get people who want to go in raw.
The canonical example of “pragmatism” is a quote from Mr Tony Blair which sums up the problem precisely in one of his famous soundbites:
“Power without principle is barren, but principle without power is futile.”
The bourgeoisie see this as not only reasonable, but obviously reasonable. If they were reading this blog post they genuinely wouldn’t understand why anyone would disagree.
Douglas Adams perfectly summed up this paradox in the fourth book of the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy trilogy.
The leaders are lizards. The people hate the lizards and the lizards rule the people.”
“Odd,” said Arthur, “I thought you said it was a democracy.”
“I did,” said Ford. “It is.”
“So,” said Arthur, hoping he wasn’t sounding ridiculously obtuse, “why don’t people get rid of the lizards?”
“It honestly doesn’t occur to them,” said Ford. “They’ve all got the vote, so they all pretty much assume that the government they’ve voted in more or less approximates to the government they want.”
“You mean they actually vote for the lizards?”
“Oh yes,” said Ford with a shrug, “of course.”
“But,” said Arthur, going for the big one again, “why?”
“Because if they didn’t vote for a lizard,” said Ford, “the wrong lizard might get in. Got any gin?”
The bourgeoisie regard ideologues as the enemies of liberal democracy… which they bloody well should be even if they aren’t. If, even when confronted by all of the evidence, you still believe in liberal democracy, then you are lost.
Don’t tense up, just try to enjoy it.