More middle-aged white Westminster ex-insiders and wanna-be-insiders telling us about how ‘down wiv da yoof’ they are. Pass me the sick bag already.
At the outset of this event about “The Leaderless Revolution”™ , when the guy from the Ineptitute of Public Policy Research’s provincial outpost bleated at length about how much they are into local policy-making with those on the outside, it was all I could do not to heckle. Y’see, I have personal experience of the fact that the guy is deluding himself (and others). But I didn’t come for him. I came to hear Carne Ross, who’d been a Foreign Office diplomat through the 1990s, up to and after the 2003 attack on Iraq.
Ross, who comes across like Jeremy Hardy doing a Michael Caine impression (or Michael Caine doing a Jeremy Hardy impression; I’m still not sure), was a fluent enough speaker, as befits a man who, for 13 years was “sent to lie abroad for the good of his country.”
But therein lies the problem. We were supposed to be there on the topic of “The Leaderless Revolution”. Instead we got rather a lot of Mr Ross, whose story was less interesting than it sounds (he took a sabbatical during the first kinetic bits of Gulf II, then tried to keep his FCO job in Kosovo while providing testimony to the Butler Inquiry, before jacking it in to go private). We then got some rambling thoughts/assertions on half-digested Kropotkin-meets-Abbie-Hoffman(or Timothy Leary, perhaps?) personal anarchism. (No acknowledgement of the reality of Weber, Robert Michels or any of that crowd.) “It’s no longer a chequerboard, it’s a Jackson Pollock.” “No longer Treaty of Westphalzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.” Sorry, drifted off there.
Look screw the content. If I want genuine insight, I can read Chomsky, or Paul Mason, or Laurie Penny or whoever (yes, that’s a white Western list. My bad). What sticks in the craw is, that for people so terribly enthused about “leaderless revolutions”, neither the IPPR guy or Ross seemed at all bothered about what we in the room thought. No straw polls, no invitation for us to talk to the people around us (British people need encouragement at this).
And then the real hilarity; In a room (well, two rooms), with about 100 people, the IPPR guy said he wanted a conversation, not a Q and A. Had no clue as to how to go about this – and guess what, it reverted to a let’s-ask-the-guru-questions. Yawnsville. The one truly cool question (not asked by me) – about who is going to populate the necessary institutions, given that 20-somethings lack the know-how and the contacts, and 30-plussers have other priorities (babies, mortgages, careers) and less energy – was, um, ignored.
Or maybe it was dealt with in the second half. I am no longer such a fool as to stick around for more punishment. Maybe that second half was an exercise in connection and collaboration and grassroots organising, with Ross shutting the fuck up at last. If so, it was the biggest comeback since Lazarus. Certainly there were enough people there who thought that they were the fricking Messiah.
So, kiddies, what have we learned?
That the IPPR is comically inept. Have not got the first clue about how to involve people. And I don’t think they care, frankly. I shan’t ever bother to go back, and I will warn others from attending, unless they are ready to be ego-fodder.
That the KroBar seems to be the unfortunate host of events that are called forums or discussions but are, in fact, exercises in tedium.
*Sure, it can be done, but it won’t be done well, and you’d be right not to trust the result.