I read a very interesting article recently from a group called the Green Alliance, who have taken a step back to look at the shifting landscape of public opinion, particularly in relation to climate change.
They used a term “populism” in the article, which I had to look up. It basically means any political movement that goes with the public mood, particularly when the general feeling is that there are a bunch of elites at the top, usually involving conspiracy theories. It is fuelled by chats with mates in the local, listening to celebrities on the telly, that kind of thing. It generally doesn’t involve a deep understanding of the underlying issues or the science. How often do you hear someone in the pub saying “good point, I’ll carry out some research – see you same time tomorrow so we can carry on with this interesting debate?”
Under this definition, the current groundswell of support for the UKIP party puts it in the populist category. They are effectively a party-political voice of the man down the pub. Pictures of a grinning Nick Farage having a celebratory pint play underline the point.
A party voicing the general public opinion and being on the side of the man on the street? Nothing wrong with that, you’d think. The trouble is that some issues, in fact a lot, are very complicated. They way they need to be dealt with doesn’t always align with what Jo Blogs wants to see happen.
And it can get very dangerous when, as at the moment, the popular opinion is that scientists and others who raise the issue of climate change are grouped among that dangerous elite who should not be trusted. Or when the populist opinion starts to veer to the right and when members of the populist party are in some way racist. That turn of events has a precedent in the recent past.
Spot on, David. Although it is imperative on us to find a way to make it fulfilling, desirable and fun to take actions to care for others and our future – not just something we have no choice but to do. Why not?