He Encouraged Us

It’s not often I want to kick myself for failing to do something anymore. I’ve do a job I like and in which I mostly dictate what I do with it. I learned ages ago not to regret not doing things I don’t like doing anyway and so have spent many happy years now not feeling inadequate because I didn’t go on that roller coaster or go to that party that was full of people I don’t like but should probably meet etc etc. At worst, I do still occasionally smell milk or look at something dubious in the fridge and try it regardless of how much it turns my nose inwards but I’m even getting better at letting common sense override sheer greediness. Then last night I did a radio news panel show. A fairly laid back one on a local – albeit for the capital – station, but nonetheless it has a fair amount of listeners. During this show I managed to fail to stand up for almost every single one of my views quite successfully and have spent a lot of today feeling rather stupid about it.

I could list excuse after excuse as to why. I wasn’t au fait with the subjects, the other two guests were professional political journalists, we only had a few minutes on each subject, and I kept being introduced as a comedian and therefore was meant to say funny things. Regardless of these though, I realised that when I’m on stage telling people what I want to say, I’m confident in expressing my opinion about why the world is a mess. In a room with people who have a confidence to know exactly what they are talking about, even if I disagree, then I’m suddenly a lot less sure of myself. I wanted to talk about how awful welfare cuts are, tell one of the guests that his narrow minded view on socialism failing was partly due to the oppressive nature of capitalism and its control over the media, as well as a lack of difference between parties. I wanted to talk about the blogs I’ve read about Ukraine where it talks of protestors accepting bribes from political powers so they will demonstrate for them. And I would’ve said something about the right wing guest likening fox hunting laws to gay marriage laws but I was laughing too hard in sheer disbelief. Instead though, I sheepishly didn’t interrupt much, and spoke only when the nice DJ threw questions to me. Mostly I felt my brain racing to contradict certain opinions but then realising I didn’t remember what the facts were about it. When things were said or by who or really what my reasoning for thinking those things was. I didn’t have Google with me and thus my opinions collapsed.

In the breaks the two guests (who were both very nice off air) said that it wasn’t so much a question of them knowing more than me, but more that they know how to bullshit well. They’ve had a lot of practice in it and so even if they don’t know what the question will be they’ll no doubt have a view on it. I felt incredibly naive but I’ve never really thought to look at things like that but it put a lot of things into place.

In the last few days I’ve read how Conservative MPs have kicked off that Newsnight has hired an ex-TUC economist as it’s economics correspondent while remaining very quiet about when they hired an ex-Telegraph business editor. I’ve also seen various right wingers say some quite nasty things about the late Tony Benn, all the while being the same people who adamantly told others not to disrespect the dead when anyone said a critical comment about Thatcher. Iain Duncan Smith said child poverty wasn’t increasing while in front of a graph that showed it was and George Osborne has complained that Britain doesn’t make anything anymore knowing full well the Tories destroyed a lot of British industry in the 80’s and continue to aim to privatise any thing we have left. It’s all such clever bullshit. Why aren’t we questioning it every second of the way? Maybe it’s because, like how I felt yesterday, there is the fear of being proved incorrect.

I liked Tony Benn for many many reasons and felt lucky to have heard him speak at many rallies and protests, always leaving me feeling inspired. However, regardless of his political views, he had absolute conviction about all of them which is so respectable. It’s missing from many of today’s politicians and commentators, with backing out and u-turns being preferable to standing and fighting. It’s missing from a lot of people too. Including me. Tony Benn said that all he wanted on his grave stone when he did was ‘he encouraged us.’ I aim to let last night be the last time that happens and next time, if there is one, I’m going to be more vocal about exactly what my views are. Then of course, someone will probably complain that I’m not very funny for a comedian and I’ll just quietly go back to searching in my fridge for food that still looks safe.

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