Seeing things for what they are is generally reserved for the eyes of hindsight. I remember the excitement of getting home from school in early 2008. This was generally an occasion to savour on its own, but this evening had been reserved to watch Barack Obama’s presidential inauguration. Political legacies aside, it was one of the first celebratory moments in my life where I had the opportunity of bearing a reply to ‘Where were you when… ?’.
As the affair was unfolding, one commentator noted it was a moment of great sadness. This was to be the end of the satirical premiership of George Bush. Comedians and late-night talk show hosts would be stripped of a huge chunk of content as ‘Dubya’ departed from the public eye. Sad indeed, when you feel the weight of unfathomable irony of what followed.
We’re only one full decade on from the moment that was supposed to be a signal of political progression. Just look at us now. The politicians at large write the comedy pieces themselves (280 characters or less), paint their own caricatures and leave little room for satirisation. Politicians have taken ownership of ridicule. When everything is sensational, there’s little else to see.
Comparison is the go-to method for reading the times we’re in. It’s exceedingly difficult at present. We can look back at the 1930s and paint everything a worrying shade, where we’re now the enemy that unified everyone else. Or we can accept that we’re more lost than ever before. Comparison becomes exceptionally dangerous when there are figures pushing the limits of what’s publicly acceptable when responsible for the lives of circa 70 million people. Just look at Rory Stewart and the adoration he received from terrified centrists and moderate lefties during the Conservative Party leadership race. Rory Stewart is a bad (read: obvious, clear) Tory. It’s important to never forget that. But, because he was placed in a criminal line-up next to Gove, Johnson and Hunt, he was presented as this nation’s last hope. Just look at us now.
Placing your nose up to the grubby world of politics is draining; it doesn’t show things for what they are. Life exists beyond the bombast of Boris Johnson. Life exists between the copious camera angle takes focussed on every moment in society. As the famous Evertonian mantra goes, ‘not a phone in sight’ – funnily enough, it actually speaks of the coping mechanisms we can deploy to survive the laughless comedy we’re a part of. Being there. Being a part of things. Being part of the moment. Taking it in with your own eyes and feeling every contour of experience that’s on offer.
It’s a feeling that the collective who feature on this month’s cover, SISBIS, have propagated since they started throwing parties under a glowing, political mirror ball just two years ago. Events that place everyone in the room on the same level, affecting change through shared experiences without being overt campaigners. No conference room, slogan and provocative rhetoric needed. Just doing what they do. Sharing music in a sphere of equality, planting a seed and watching attitudes change. Just look at what’s possible, what we’re all able to do.