Saturday, November 10, 2012

A Bullshit Mayor for Bristol

In his essay/book On Bullshit, Harry Frankfurt suggests that one of the reasons that there is so much bullshit around today is because of democracy. Spreading power and responsibility around encourages, or even makes it necessary, for people to hold opinions on things they know little about.

I feel like that about the Mayoral elections in Bristol, that I know almost nothing about the candidates or the issues, and that casting a vote is pretending that I do. Charlie Brooker describes approaching current affairs if you haven't been paying attention as like tuning into episode 803 of the world's most complex soap opera. That applies just as much to local affairs as national or international ones.

Somehow local issues seem harder to decide on than national ones. Maybe it's because for all the managerialism of contemporary politics, there are still matters of principle on show at the national level. Or maybe it's just because I know more about national politics. Living in this city doesn't mean I know anything about what's going on.

The main issue in Bristol is transport, but I'm damned if I know the pros and cons of rapid transit vs buses vs increased rail services vs trams vs cars vs rocket packs vs cycle lanes. I'm still not entirely sure what "rapid transit" is - I think it's just buses with special dedicated "bus lanes". The only thing all that time playing sim city taught me is that subways are fantastic, but you've got to plan ahead and leave space for the stations.

Maybe if I'd been paying attention to local politics for, say, the last decade, I'd know who some of these people are and what they're like. Instead, my only conclusions about the candidates are:
- one of them looks like a very manly muppet (or a very muppety man)
- one of them makes me think of one of the toads from Bucky O'Hare
- the libdem really looks like a libdem.