10 things that will secure both my votes in 2016 (may contain traces of satire)
Yeah ban the BeeB. Well everything except Dr Who. And those wonderful long form Adam Curtis documentaries that pretty much lay out how our society came to be dominated by public relations and consumerism. (You know…all the things you say the BBC are trying to hide from us) Oh and also Radio 6 and the World Service – let’s keep those. And the wildlife stuff that leaves me breathless. But aye, apart from that ban it all.
Let’s watch ITV4 make up the shortfall. Let’s embark on the democratic equivalent of turning out the lights at night – leaving ourselves prey to nightmares we’ve had the luxury to forget. Gangsters that’ll make Guantanamo Bay feel like Butlins. Cowboy traders that will take your money and not even bother to run because nobody is coming after them. Journalism has many functions as well as spoon-feeding us things we want to hear or serving dollops of plane crash porn. Whether we like it or not the media outlets we claim to despise do perform a very important role when they aren’t being overly-hysterical or brazenly biased. They give us a foothold in some kind of agreed reality from which to diverge and form actionable beliefs and judgements. Well, fuck that! Fuck David Attenborough. Fuck hummingbirds feeding their young in slow-motion during a fucking monsoon. Fuck bullet ants being infected by their corresponding fungi, being quarantined by other bullet ants while tripping out their tentacles, before climbing up the nearest tree until they reach the canopy where they literally turn into mushrooms that warn off the rest of the ant colony. Fuck that coz Nick Robinson.
The recession proof Third Sector has become a bit of a free for all. The £5bn cornerstone of the Scottish economy relies on the altruism of 1.6m volunteers. As someone who has put in a good few hours of voluntary work I can tell you it has become a by-word for free labour. If there’s something needing done then let’s find money to pay people for doing it and perhaps cut back on the buffets and team-building jollies.
#3 Ban applause in the Scottish Parliament
In a noble attempt to demonstrate a divergence from the rowdy, aggressive House of Commons culture, we have created something far smugger. Namely, our elected representatives routinely applaud themselves. And usually for no special reason either but rather a kind of tribal instinct. Not only do they get subsidised food, free taxis, buses, flights and ferries but they also get to sit in work and heap praise on their mates. Politicians should respect the fact we find them annoying enough as it is and show a bit of contrition.
# 4 Invite all immigrants, refugees and asylum seekers to settle in affluent West End suburbs
Why do we send people who fleeing poverty and violence to the East End Glasgow? Given that so many of our commentariat are keen to welcome people no matter the social implications then I think it only fair they take their share of responsibility for the complex cultural integration process. Not only would it be a more just distribution of responsibilities but it would actually give people fleeing religious war and economic oppression an opportunity to experience how the other half live. They can’t get that insight holed up in a drug-addled close in Govanhill. Hyndland should open its doors and let Syrians experience the joy of half hour queues for cheese and pavements not caked in dog excrement. Why not pay a refugee to polish your shoes as you enjoy a cranberry and brie bagel on Ashton Lane or let a family of asylum seekers sleep in the glove compartment of one of your fleet of climate-change defying cars?
# 5 Make news literacy part of the curriculum
The only thing more dangerous than mainstream media bias is our own audience bias. We have been raised to expect the press to do our thinking for us and now that we have ‘new media’ we can throw the toys out the pram and head directly to our op-ed of choice. But this is self-deluded. A little bit of all the news is far more balanced, even if just to know what other people are thinking. The buck stops at the citizen. The critically minded citizen is the ultimate check and balance against all forms of corruption in a democratic society. News literacy is as essential as literacy and numeracy in an age of endless information. Boycotting everything only narrows the funnel of information.
# 6 When pundits get it wrong there should be consequences.
These days you don’t have to sacrifice much to be regarded altruistic and enlightened. Apparently just voicing your opinion is charity enough. But what if our pantheon of talking heads had more on the line than simply the dilemma of whether to mute you on Twitter or not? What if every week their career hinged on whatever prediction they chose to make? I’ll vote for a party that advocates the keeping of scores.
Did that fringe political party you were cheer-leading turn out to be an incompetent farce in government? Did you foresee the Tories winning the General Election in 2015? Or the rise and plateau of Jeremy Corbyn? No? Then why should anybody care what you think now? You’ll have to earn that credibility back before your next lucrative speaking tour I’m afraid.
# 7 Reduce expense entitlements of MSP’s
Last time I checked the bill for MSP’s expenses was about £15m a year. In context Glasgow City Council cut 20% of core funding to hundreds of small community groups to save a paltry £1.6m last year. MSP’s are paid enough. They should be able to cover their own bus and train fares like the rest of do. I would be happy to raise their salary slightly to cover this. But £15m is just a slap in the face for everybody who is struggling. Sort it out.
# 8 Compulsory law taught in secondary schools
Law is the most fundamental concept in our society. Every citizen should have a basic grasp of key legal concepts as well as a working knowledge of their rights and responsibilities. Too many people are blatantly unaware of their rights with regard to so many areas of life and this is needlessly exploited – not least by the legal profession. If everyone has to learn a foreign language then surely they should have to learn a bit about the legal system of their own country too? If it’s proven useful maybe do the same with economics at a later stage?
# 9 Partisan art and culture needs a new name
Only in Scotland can you be called a satirist without ever criticising the Scottish Government. I’ve learned more about challenging power watching Paul Merton stare dejectedly into space.
# 10 Humanise Education
Western society has evolved in order to pacify our restless natures by providing everything we could possibly want and more. There is, however, one fatal flaw: we are human and the things we think we want are often bad news for our well-beings. At present our economy is largely based on providing fleeting comfort from the self-centred fear and existential angst unfettered materialism brings but what if we could begin to move beyond this? Let’s make education as much about dealing with our human problems as it is about getting a job. Money management, forging and sustaining positive relationships, building self-confidence, sex education should be looked at holistically; an approach that integrates everything we know about the human condition directly into the curriculum for the benefit of all human beings. If capitalism is here to stay then at least let us try and broaden the scope of its efficiency.