Janan Ganesh defends political apathy, a comment by Political Observer

Mr. Ganesh, in his first two paragraphs, faintly echos, suggests, that old Rogers and Hart standard The Lady is a Tramp:

I get too hungry, for dinner at eight
I like the theater, but never come late
I never bother, with people I hate
That’s why the lady is a tramp

I don’t like crap games, with barons and earls
Won’t go to Harlem, in ermine and pearls
Won’t dish the dirt, with the rest of the girls
That’s why the lady is a tramp

‘For someone who is quite good at it, David Cameron is not very interested in politics. Britain’s prime minister does not read Robert Caro’s monumental works on American statecraft for fun. He avoids Borgen, the television drama about a Danish government, because it is “too much like work”.

He never talks policy or strategy with friends, most of whom pre-date his career. His Downing Street is not Bill Clinton’s White House: there are no late-night symposia over pizza, no infectious enthusiasm for politics as sport. When he retires, he will retire easily.’


This lasts until Mr. Ganesh surrenders to his usual cynicism of how the World Is or at least how Politicians view it:

‘All politicians understand Yes, No and Undecided. Only the winners understand Don’t Much Care. Mr Cameron communicates crisply because he knows most people only tune in for a few minutes a day. He does not lose himself in marginalia that no swing voter will ever notice. Rousing a nation through force of personality is something leaders do in films: the real art of politics is accepting apathy and bending it to your purposes.’

His essay is about the uses the adroit politician makes of apathy:

‘And it all starts with the realisation that apathy is not a type of sickness. Unlike the Labour party, opinion pollsters chose self-examination over self-indulgence after flunking last year’s general election.’

A reader might first ask, is this a companion piece to his December 28,2015 essay in defense of ‘the politics of fear’?


Will Mr. Ganesh complete his advocacy for the cardinal historical/political sins? Fear, Apathy, Acedia, Vainglory, and even with the addition the seven deadly sins: Pride, Greed, Lust, Envy, Gluttony, Wraith and Sloth? Perhaps, here are some answers:

‘Apathy is a respectable disposition in a country where, for most people most of the time, life is tolerable-to-good.’ ‘They priggishly elide apathy with dysfunction: if voters do not care, something must be wrong with the body politic.’

This essay devolves into a sneering attack on the ‘Left’ and Jeremy Corbyn and the’ movement building’ at the center of reclaiming Labour, from the Neo-Liberalism of Tony Blair. One can’t imagine Mr. Ganesh trundling his trolleys through the Tesco, but rather through Waitrose , Sainsbury’s or Marks & Spencers.

Mr. Ganesh’s final paragraph dismisses the ‘hot heads and crusaders’ with self-congratulatory rhetoric, as if he were dismissing a insolent cabby in London, circa 1900!

‘Apathetic Britons are not waiting to be redeemed. They just have lives to get on with. Not only are they apolitical; they rouse themselves to vote every five years precisely to stop hot heads and crusaders from running their country. They like Mr Cameron because he governs well enough to save them having to think about politics. He is prime minister because someone has to be.’

Political Observer









About stephenkmacksd

Rootless cosmopolitan,down at heels intellectual;would be writer. 'Polemic is a discourse of conflict, whose effect depends on a delicate balance between the requirements of truth and the enticements of anger, the duty to argue and the zest to inflame. Its rhetoric allows, even enforces, a certain figurative licence. Like epitaphs in Johnson’s adage, it is not under oath.' https://www.lrb.co.uk/v15/n20/perry-anderson/diary
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