More Beach Thoughts: New Technology and Why I’ve Never Been a Progressive
The very first comment to yesterday’s video was “Get a windshield for your camera, mate”. Well, you don’t seem to understand, do you, mate, that making videos on the beach is a plan B. I was expecting to make normal videos at home but we don’t have Internet.
Luckily, I brought my GoPro with me so it means I can at least make videos while I’m on holiday and supposed to be relaxing and dedicating time to my wife. So no, I’m not getting a windshield so if you don’t like the wind noise, watch something else, mate. You’ve got plenty to choose from on YouTube.
Now, this brings me onto the main topic of today’s video, which is new technology and why I’ve never been a progressive. My attitude to windshields and other technological aspects of my videos is actually symptomatic of a deeper set of attitudes. Obviously, I’d like the videos to be technologically as good as possible and for the people watching to be able to enjoy the video without too many hassles but as far as I’m concerned the quality just needs to be good enough because what’s important is the content.
Now this isn’t really a progressive attitude because the fact of the matter is I’ve never been a progressive. I’ve always been much more of a traditionalist, even as a lefty. Progressives seem to believe that all change results in progress, whether that be technological or social. So they automatically see new technologies as improving our lives.
Mobile phones and social media are a good example. I’m quite an early uptaker with these new technologies now, partly because I’ve been peddling my ideas on Internet for a few years now but I don’t see them totally positive, by any means.
In fact, I didn’t have a mobile phone until I separated from my first wife in 2011 and I finally only got one because all of a sudden I didn’t have a land line. In fact, until that point I had been incredibly resistent to getting myself one and had joked that my ambition was to get to 2040 and be the only person in Western Europe without a mobile phone. Sadly, that’s one ambition I haven’t been able to fulfill.
If you watch people in social situations, it’s easy to see how much the mobile phone and social media, in particular, has damaged social interaction. These days people sit down and instead of talking to each other, immediately whip out their mobile phones and start interacting with people on the other side of the world.
Obviously, the upside of this new technology is long-distance communication is much better but the downside is that interpersonal communication is much worse. This might not have such a profound effect on people from the older generation like me but it’s bound to affect young people, who are in the process of learning how to interact and make social and emotional bonds for the first time.
So I’m not saying that these technological changes are all bad but the reason why I’m not a progressive is because I don’t see them as all good. In fact, this is an attitude I’ve always had. Back in the early 1980s, I remember railing against the new fashion of watching films on video because I predicted they would make people less likely to go to the pub, which in the long run would make people less sociable and would destroy working-class communities. The video cassette was just the beginning of the breakdown of the sense of community, which has only accelerated with the advent of social media.
This traditionalist or small c conservative attitude is also reflected on the way I see society. The reason why I became a leftist was really out of class loyalty and because I believed I had been born into a left-wing tradition because I identified as working-class.
My grandfather, who was always my great hero, had been a bus driver and president of the Transport and General Workers’ Union East Midlands division and talking to him, his objective had never been to bring about a revolution but rather to give working-class people a chance to improve themselves.
This was very much my position at the time and I was aware that my views contrasted with most of my middle-class progressive friends at university. They talked about revolution and social justice whilst I wanted the financially underprivileged to be given a better set of opportunities.
In the light of what’s happened in the last few decades, I’ve been forced to revise my opinions but back then I wanted a welfare state and free education for all in order to iron social inequalities and give the working-class both a chance to succeed and also a safety net for when they fell on hard times.
It was back then that progressive identity politics were beginning to rear their ugly head and whilst strong on class and race, because black people tended to be poor and therefore working-class and underprivileged, I was never into the celebratory and divisive aspects of identity politics.
Back then I don’t really recall that homosexuality was a particularly political issue. I knew a lot of gay people because I was involved in the university drama society and it seemed self-evident that they shouldn’t be discriminated against but at some point the whole discourse flipped from Glam Rock and David Bowie coming out as bisexual and Tom Robinson’s “Sing If You’re Glad To Be Gay” all of which was cool and a bit edgy to Gay Pride and the gay political lobby. It’s always struck me as a bit ridiculous that people are proud of something they claim to have no control over.
In those days, I was also immediately pretty antagonistic towards Feminism or at least the middle-class feminists I knew at university, who always had cropped hair, wore tight skirts with black tights, Dr Marten’s shoes and bright red lipstick. It seemed much more of a statement or a fashion choice than something with the real political objective of helping working-class or immigrant women.
The divisiveness of it all struck me the first time there was a “Women Against Rape” campaign. The obvious implication is that men were in favour, which is obviously untrue and insulting. I upset a lot of people by suggesting a new slogan: “Women Mildly in Favour of Rape but Only on Thursdays”.
Anyway, I’ve gone on for two long but one of the reasons why I keep talking about stuff like this is that I think there are a lot more reasons to be optimistic than we often give credit for. The fact that I myself could wake up and start to question basic tenets I’d held for most of my life means that other people can also be persuaded to do so.
Most people who are nominally left now or have been hoodwinked by the mainstream media into believing that the main threat we face is from the so-called far right are reasonable people, who just need to be woken up. So let’s stay reasonable and keep putting forward arguments because the fact of the matter is, as I look at this beautiful landscape before me, almost everybody reacts positively to this and hardly anybody wants to see it taken away.
Watch on YouTube
Watch on VidMe