Saturday, 10 June 2017

Winning and losing

An election just happened and the Tories won. Sort of.

It doesn't feel like they won, does it? Theresa May looks very sad, her confused eyes staring bleakly out of her skull-like face, as if to say "Many kittens just died and I don't know why." Everyone in the Tory party hates her. Even the right wing press, who were jigging about with glee last week at the prospect of her massive victory, now despise her.

Labour, meanwhile, are striding about the place like the kings of the world. Yes, they seem to be saying, that was me playing that awesome guitar solo. A crown? Why, thank you.

I think it's pretty clear who's the winner in this picture.
Image: BBC news

There's a real dissonance, it seems, between the simple numbers of the election - Tories got more than Labour - and the reality of what those numbers mean. And it's confusing the hell out of people. Which is good. Because we need to stop this obsession with 'winning'.

Since the Brexit victory last year, we've heard one phrase a lot  - "You lost. Get over it." Oooh, that phrase annoys me. Whenever someone raises the idea that Brexit might be a problem for the country, they get shouted down by one of the 52%. "You lost!" OK then. I guess my opinion is forever irrelevant.

Same with Trump. His awful presidency was greeted with understandable opposition and complaint. And the response from the right wing of the internet? "You lost! Stop moaning!"

"No, but he is!" shout people who don't get the point.
Image: NBC news.

And it's bothered me for a while and now I know why. Now I look at the results of this June 2017 election, I understand what my brain was trying to tell me every time it flinched from some moron using "You lost!" as an argument.

We have a democratic system to determine social change and that system is voting. The results are, necessarily, numerical and therefore the outcomes are fairly clear cut. Bigger numbers translate into victory. You get fewer numbers, you don't get your way.

But there's a subtle difference, isn't there, between saying "Yes, that's the way we'll go" and shouting "Ha! We won! In your face!"

Brexit was a very good example of this. When 52% vote one way and 48% vote the other, you have a decision. But you don't have a victory. What you have is a deeply divided nation who clearly disagree on something fundamental. You have a result, and a responsibility to accept that result, but you also have a clear indication that the process of going forwards needs to be handled with care and thought and open ears.

These people are confused about every aspect of their reality.

This isn't a quiz show, where the most points simply means that Trevor and Irene from Wigan get to go home with a speedboat and everyone else just shrugs and forgets about it. Voting numbers aren't just victory points. They are a sign of who people are and what they believe. They don't go away after voting day and they don't stop mattering just because somebody won.

That's why it's idiotic to ignore the protests against Trump. "Hey, why are you protesting? He won the election!" say Twitter geniuses. Well, they're protesting because they still don't want him to be President, you cretins. Because those numbers that made him win don't magically erase the numbers that wanted him to lose. He won an election. Not a mind control contest.

To think of 'winning' and 'losing' in such basic, child-like terms is incredibly unhealthy. It's an arrogant, closed minded approach to the nature of politics. Yes, the numbers matter. But all the numbers. Not just the very highest ones.

Look at these guys! Small numbers. But delightful!

This week, Jeremy Corbyn's Labour won a number of seats, including some the Tories thought were untouchable. Labour's share of the vote massively increased in a number of significant districts. Meanwhile Theresa May lost seats and saw some of her key players clinging on by a slim margin.

Yes, she won. In purely numerical who-got-the-most terms, she won. But I'm very heartened to see the reaction from everyone around her. This is no victory. Not in real terms. There's an underlying significance to these figures that suggests all is not well.

With luck, this dissonance will teach us a lesson. We'll stop looking at absolute results and start to look at the smaller, more subtle truths beneath them. We'll realise that 52% is nothing like a vindication of an idea. That being elected President doesn't mean you're immune from street protests. And that every one of those numbers, even the ones that belong to smaller groups, is a person. And that person means something, even if they didn't win.