by Stephen Tall on November 5, 2012
Reading Naomi Klein’s anti-capitalist No Logo a dozen years ago confirmed in me that any last vestiges of my teenage leftyism had long since vanished. Eliane Glaser’s Get Real re-confirmed it for me.
The book itself is a rattling read: a real energy and passion pulsates on every page. However, its central argument — that corporations and politicians are systematically deluding the public, concealing their exploitative practices behind a veil of spin and illusion — rests far too heavily on generalised assertion. What Eliane terms ‘delusions’ (eg, public spending cuts billed as returning power to the people) are simply things she disagrees with.
She attacks politicians for rejecting the label ‘ideological’. Yet this denies the possibility that the word has, for many, evolved its meaning, often suggesting these days the inflexible mind of someone unable to adjust to evidence that doesn’t suit them.
But perhaps my biggest problem with Eliane’s thesis is summed up by this sentence: ‘I want my politicians to make a case, to argue their position, to try to persuade me their vision is best.’ So do I. Frankly, who doesn’t? But the question not answered in this book is this: what happens next? What happens when the public doesn’t give a democratic mandate to any one set of politicians pursuing their ideology? What happens when the results of one election — and then another and another — show the public is divided in many directions? In other words, what happens when reality strikes? Surely then compromise is not only inevitable but right?
For a book concerned with asserting the importance of facing reality those are some pretty big questions to duck.