Carpe diem as a political response

A personal post, for a change…


I used to be committed.

I used to think that there was a future in collective action, that we were in a process of coming to understand the impact our resource-hungry species was having on the planet and maybe we might just find a solution that would give us some hope of a future. Some kind of liberal, hippyish blend of technology and changed lifestyle might just emerge.

I worked with campaigning groups, I supported the right charities, I lived what was my best attempt at a sustainable, ethical lifestyle. Perhaps the culmination of this was nearly ten years ago when I stood in local council elections for the Green Party, not with even the remotest possibility of getting elected but in the belief that by having candidates in every election in the country we were helping establish the credibility of a growing political force.

No more.

After that election I started to withdraw, to lose faith. For me it became increasingly difficult to sustain any belief that we were heading for anything but calamity. I’ve written about the kind of near future I see in a couple of novels (forgive me, but this isn’t a crass marketing post – my marketing posts are far more obvious than this – but more a case that these two novels are where I’ve explored my position most thoroughly; to back that up, I won’t even name the novels): in these books Europe is torn by the growing pressures of climate change, resource depletion and the resulting mass migration and conflict.

As things get tight, we’re faced with choices. Push forward for sustainable change, or close in and exclude? In my increasingly pessimistic vision, as explored in these two novels, we turn inwards: we close the national boundaries to the Other, we turn against the weak and anyone we can label as different; our resources are *ours* and we will defend them at all costs. “English jobs for the English”, as a particularly vile election leaflet recently pushed through my door stated.

Increasingly believing that this future had become inevitable I stopped my campaigning, unable to see any way forward. Instead, I chose simply to appreciate what we have now. This world really is an incredible place and I’m often struck by the sheer beauty and magic of nature. Let’s enjoy it while we can; enjoy the world’s literature and art and fabulous cultures before we lose that option. And hope against hope that in fifty years, a hundred years, people will still be able to do that and won’t just have been busy burning all their bridges in a short-sighted frenzy.

Selfish? Hell, yes.

Realistic? I think so. We live in an amazing world, we’re an amazing species – even if we can’t save it, we really should appreciate what we have.

But am I really advocating carpe diem as a political response to the rise of fascism today’s European election results show?

I don’t know. I really don’t know.

In the lead-up to and immediate aftermath of these elections some of my friends have talked about the noble choice of abstaining from voting in a system they see as corrupt. My argument then was that for anyone who has any kind of decent ethical convictions not voting is simply giving a voice to the fascists. As they say, if you’re not part of the solution you’re part of the problem.

A bit hypocritical, given the shift in my own political commitment, huh? Even though I’ve always voted, I’ve been abstaining from actual political involvement on a far larger scale, after all.

But what else can we do? I really struggle to see…

About Keith Brooke and infinity plus

Keith Brooke is a writer of science fiction, fantasy and other strange stuff, and editor and reviewer of same. He is also the publisher at infinity plus, an independent imprint publishing books by leading genre fiction authors. View all posts by Keith Brooke and infinity plus

4 responses to “Carpe diem as a political response

  • David Mathew

    Good post, Keith. I voted Green recently in the locals, not with any reasonable hope that they might win (and they didn’t), but with a tiny flicker of ambition that at least the local Tory vote would be diluted, albeit by only two measly votes.

  • Gary Dalkin

    The real problem is surely that 64% of the electorate couldn’t be bothered to vote for anyone, allowing the 9% of the electorate that voted UKIP to ‘win’. There’s nothing noble in enabling bigots, racists and buffoons on the pretext that the system is corrupt. The solution surely is to vote for a party which will address the corruption.

    • keith brooke

      Yes, it’s an awful indictment that two thirds didn’t vote. Some people have argued that a significant proportion of these were people disaffected by the corrupt big parties, but it’s a fairly typical participation rate, so I don’t swallow that. I’d love to think that if that 64% were to become engaged they would actually turn the process into an informed and intelligent one; my big fear is that if they didn’t bother to vote before then they might just not bother to think too deeply now and we’d end up in a worse position… I really have lost my faith in democracy and in our species’s ability to survive right now, which is a sad position to have reached.

      • Gary Dalkin

        Which reminds me of wise words written a very long time ago:

        ‘For who knows what is good for a person in life, during the few and meaningless days they pass through like a shadow? Who can tell them what will happen under the sun after they are gone?’ Ecclesiastes 6: 12 (NIV)

        (It’s one of those sort of days).

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