I will often hear, during opinion slinging, the phrase “totally vacuous”. It is used by people from all sides of the political divide to completely denounce the opinions of the other, to essentially claim that they are totally devoid of meaning, a series of empty phrases paying ideological tribute to some kind of dogma. A notable example of this comes during George Orwell’s otherwise excellent essay Politics and the English Language, where he describes political language as giving “solidity to pure wind”. But, I this cannot be true, for nothing can be vacuous, especially language, which always carries some kind of meaning. If nothing else, the words of a mad person achieve in showing them to be so far from the social norm that they enter into madness. And it works for any concept. “Pure wind” still exerts force.
This kind of thinking was very noticeable during Edward Milliband’s speech at the Labour conference I noted, especially on Twitter, plenty of the more radical left call the speech vacuous. Yet, when the EDL demonstrate, they are often met with a level of opposition that would indicate people take them seriously enough to want to challenge the ideas directly. One could say, fairly, that we should challenge dangerous ideas, and I would agree. But, when the ideas are in defence of the normative, neoliberalism for instance, we can quickly deride it as meaningless. This used to be how I reacted to consumerism and celebrity culture, as a cultural vacuum. But, after writing two papers on Jersey Shore, something which surprised some of my peers who considered it below the scope of intellectual consideration, I came to realise there is lot going on in these so called vacuums.
What I am saying is this: in denying opinions any meaning to us we do not feel the need to respond any more, and become disconnected. The common and current conception that politicians “talk shit and lie” therefore we should not bother with listening has led to a collapse in voting and arguably in political interaction. Socialism absolutely relies on the large-scale struggle fought in the political sphere, whereas right-wing capitalism does not. It benefits capitalism to have people not thinking about it. Creating semantic vacuums only reduces the places where the socialist can fight back. So it seems contradictory and counter-revolutionary to enforce the conception that politicians are not worth consideration. Reducing them to back ground noise only normalises their existence more.
Afterall, when you hear whistle of windy weather, you don’t go out into a thunderstorm in a t-shirt.
BY: Johnny Mill