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A Magazine for Sheffield

Progressive Politics: New Connections

Access any media, social or otherwise, and you find endless material on the ‘zeitgeist’. It’s politics, Jim, but not as we know it. Well, here’s a thought: is that not the point? Read any tome on Great Britain's political history and it will be packed to the gunwalls with progressive stages, as geopolitics morphed out of the Dark Ages. ‘Progressive’ has had many faces - not beating your slaves, the Poor Law, universal suffrage - but cannot often claim to be the seismic change agent within the system which either created those conditions or perpetuated them. Cataclysmic change commonly results from external shocks, like the Black Death or the invention of the printing press. OED definitions of ‘progressive’ - moving forward, cumulative and/or rapid actions - seem outdated, dull and in dire need of a makeover. Likewise, ‘radical’ has the tarnished label of association with Thatcher and Reaganomics, so it’s best to be wary of how you apply, or wish to be known by, that particular word too. The post-referendum UK is searching for something. Subsequent public events skew the search. In a different time, events like terrorist attacks and the Grenfell Tower fire - and, less drastic, boys asserting their right to wear skirts in heatwave Britain - would have stood alone. Now they become conjoined, symbolic of something. Austerity? Marginalisation of groups by other groups? Individuals not having a voice? In the 1980s, power struggles - for example, the strategic destruction of trade unions, landmarked by striking miners - provided visible, early global coverage of how one group controlled another. But change, real change, is a-coming. Across mainland Europe, a new mood is building, a cause-and-effect consequence of digital culture. Continuing a familiar pattern when ‘new politics’ is identified, people are talking to each other. Talking, discussing, listening, disagreeing, agreeing to disagree, maybe shifting their positions a little. Europe is showing signs of a new way of doing politics and engagement which is more direct, faster, multi-platformed. The UK experienced a form of this in the recent general election, when younger voters rallied towards Labour. Thanks to a combination of social media and traditional coffee shops (could be Jacobean England), groups are making connections horizontally, across towns, countries, the globe. Historically, organised groups equalled ‘silo mentality’. You joined your local working men's club or brass band for a specific reason. The same applies to adult education and support groups. In her defence of the status of parliament before the referendum, Gina Miller promotes the growth of a ‘progressive alliance’, a call for active groups to unite and become a unitary political force. The cluster of ‘post-capitalism’ narrative is falling over itself to describe and explain how and why the world of technology is creating new social groups, as traditional environments – the workplace, the neighbourhood – disappear. New solidarity is provided online, without walls, time zones or prior peer encounter, yet we still riot, gather in physical places, and protest by standing up and being counted. Despite the threat of Trump sneaking in by the back door, the global Pussyhat demonstrations sent a message which permeated the White House: never say protesting is ineffective. As cliched as it may be, the purpose of collective action is timeless, whether organised via the soap box or via the net. When individuals feel that their voices - and, by definition, they themselves - are undervalued, collective action is highly probable. Free speech and equal thinking are under threat, the defence of which is also timeless. That, too, is a parallel zeitgeist - if that is allowed? )

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Nikita Kaun: Dream-Like Darkness

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