Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Bubblegum politics

Do you remember bubblegum pop?

It was a popular style of music back in the late sixties which was contrived to appeal to a particular audience. Songs like "Sugar, Sugar" by The Archies and "Yummy Yummy Yummy" by Ohio Express consisted of catchy melodies, simple structure, singalong choruses and repetitive riffs specifically catering for young kids - pre-teens - who were just getting into music, but couldn't yet grasp the more complex and nuanced structures of the music listened to by their older brothers and sisters.

As bubblegum pop coincided with the boom in television it was not unnatural for the genre to take advantage of this. Television friendly clean cut "groups" such as The Monkees and The Partridge Family were created to front the songs which were actually played and recorded by hairy arsed biker types who'd scare the pre-teens behind the sofa if they were allowed on screen.

Eventually, of course, those pre-teens got a little older and the music changed to match that. The music retained many of the simple virtues of bubblegum pop, but now the hairy arsed bikers were fronting it as well - albeit dressed in sparkly clothes and smothered in make-up. Music for my generation arrived in the form of Glam Rock. Some of those artists looked quite good in make-up - Marc Bolan and David Bowie in particular - but on the whole they tended to look like bricklayers in drag.

Why am I going on about this?

Because we live in an era of bubblegum politics.

Instead of catchy melodies and singalong choruses we have slogans like "education, education, education" and sound bites as hooks in place of repetitive riffs. Instead of hairy arsed bikers being behind the media friendly television persona, we have spin doctors, speech writers and policy "advisors" who we don't vote for, rarely see and whose background is somewhat shady.

I suppose this shouldn't be surprising seeing how television is the major influencer of the age, but a lot of it is down to politicians believing that they have to appeal to an ever younger audience. Unfortunately, there is not the wide choice in politics as there is in music, so by appealing to a younger audience, the older voters - the ones that really matter as they are the ones who actually vote - tend to get turned off by this. The more turned off they are by it the less they are inclined to vote.

I surely can not be alone in thinking that politics should be a little more grown up than this? Voters are not pre-teens. We are not incapable of grasping the "nuances" of policy (nuance is progressive liberal code for "hidden agenda") if we are given the opportunity.

This may surprise you, but I don't believe that our generation - or the next come to that - is any more stupid or clever than previous generations. We like to think we are more sophisticated than previous generations (although we're actually just more pretentious), but our political discourse belies this.

So let's get away from this bubblegum politics and start to have proper political discussion, argument and debate with politicians being honest and up-front with their beliefs and aims. Let those faceless figures behind the scenes step forward into the limelight and put themselves up for election rather than trying to manipulate things from behind a presentable front man.

What we want is grown-up politics for grown-up people.

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