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Modern politics no place for fresh ideas.


IT hasn't been a great week for highly intelligent and thoughtful politicians.

Barack Obama got a bloody nose in the US mid-term elections as the Republican Party, having managed to contain its lunatic fringe, benefited enormously from hundreds of millions of dollars of support.

History, I'm convinced, will rate Obama very highly, partly for things he has done - but maybe more so for the things his hasn't.

He has restored the morale of America's diplomatic service which had been sidelined in the Bush years by the "Shock-and-Awe" brigade.

Rather than fecklessly flexing his nation's overwhelming military power by launching totally counter-productive neo-imperial wars, he has largely extracted the US from the bottomless pits of foreign engagements.

And he did so without the humiliation of the frantic retreat from Vietnam a generation earlier.

Of course, that long patient exercise has tended to make him look indecisive compared to those who recklessly bombed other countries.

He has been vilified for his reluctance to react murderously to various provocations, knowing that it simply doesn't work, apart altogether from any moral consideration.

But corporate America and its media mouthpieces don't do reluctance and Mr Obama gets a hard time from those who want to see "action".

Closer to home, Ed Miliband - another thoughtful and committed leader - has been getting a media pasting.

True, he doesn't have Obama's charisma or record but I can't escape the feeling that this is a man you can trust.

Goodness knows we don't need another politician who knows how to ride the polls rather than help lead us towards a more equal and compassionate society. Miliband, bookish and ill-suited to media stunts, doesn't tick all the boxes required by our celebrity-intoxicated culture - which makes it all the more amazing that he has made it at such a young age to being Her Majesty's Leader of the Opposition.

His critics - most of whom, it seems to me, lack his intelligence - don't doubt his ability or commitment.

They focus on his media-worthiness, as if that were a vital quality in running the country.

So I observe the "Let's do Miliband" with a cold eye. As an oldfashioned democrat, I despise the idea that the US Congress should be decided by corporate America or that the Prime Minister should be chosen by Rupert Murdoch and his like, however indirectly.

So I sympathise when I see decent politicians having a rough week.

Mind you, I haven't had the easiest seven days myself but threaded through them I have enjoyed some beautiful hours.

I have the Ebola outbreak to thank for this. It occurred to me to re-read Albert Camus' The Plague for the first time in nearly 50 years.

What a joy to steep myself again in one of the most lucid minds of the 20th century. I envy those who can read him easily in French.

It felt like a totally new experience. It was so wonderful that I ordered fresh copies of his other works, among them his prophetic 1946 essay, Neither Victims Nor Executioners. Let me quote from his conclusion: "All I ask is that, in the midst of a murderous world, we agree to reflect on murder and to make a choice.

After that, we can distinguish between those who accept the consequences of being murderers or the accomplices of murderers, and those who refuse to do so with all their force and being.

Since this terrible dividing line does actually exist, it will be a gain if it be clearly marked...

I have always held that, if he who bases his hopes on human nature is a fool, he who gives up in the face of circumstances is a coward.

Henceforth, the only honourable course will be to stake everything on a formidable gamble: that words are more powerful than munitions."

Camus' fierce challenge was difficult enough in 1946 - it must seem impossible to a twittering generation which does not have the time or attention span to reflect on murder as he asked, and to make a choice.

Just think for a moment, by paying tax we are complicit in murder even if we are totally opposed to it.

The Not In Our Name protests against Blair involving us in the illegal attack on Iraq did not succeed.

So what are we to do and how are we to inspire passionate youngsters to a different reaction than jihadism or counter-jihadism, both equally murderous? We need not just one but hundreds of Camus-type prophets insisting on calling murder by its proper name and working relentlessly for the triumph of that daily decency with which most would want to live.

Most of Miliband's critics seem to lack his intelligence


PROFOUND Albert Camus

PEOPLE POWER Anti-Iraq war march in 2003
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Title Annotation:Editorial
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Article Type:Editorial
Date:Nov 10, 2014
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