Ok. So this is it. VOTING DAY. And for the radically undecided among you — the ones who back a different party on every issue; the ones who’ve noticed a creeping pessimism in their attitudes; the ones who might be feeling fatalistic about the possibility of change or even querying the point, anymore, of political idealism — I want you to think about Tinder.
Why? Great question. And it’s true that I have been staring at manifestos for many hours now. But bear with me.
We live in a post-Tinder world. Which, when you think about it, means we increasingly live in an age of mass, soft-focus social Darwinism that makes the old days of personality-focused online dating seem now like a naive social experiment in soft-bellied human optimism and dusty sexual-ethical mores.
Tinder has taken it right back to the fundamental, pheremonal level — or at least, to the idea of pheromones, transmitted visually through your phone screen. Pure, simple genius. And in digital terms, a watershed moment that hailed a return to an age dominated by honest, common-sense, true-to-life Human Nature, given a pat on the back and an infinite platform to play on. Pointless social practices gave way to a ruthless but more accurate online world where attraction is the name of the game. No contrived box ticking. No pointless denial. Just basic science. An acceptance that this is how the world is. And didn’t it seem refreshing! So free of hand-wringing and political correctness about how we’re meant to behave and what we’re meant to aspire to.
It made it ok for all of us to swipe away, po-faced; vaguely gesturing - for those with time for synaptic processing between thumb movements - to evolution and natural selection in the spirit of, why deny nature. Let’s embrace our inherent aesthetic biological bias.Look how good this eighth of my face looks from this really particular angle.
And what a wonderful digital world this aesthetic pragmatism has given birth to.
“Sick of dating websites filled with ugly, unattractive, desperate fatsos?” Then head to oh-so-aptly named Darwin Dating.
Or apply to join BeautifulPeople.com, where a panel of the discerning beautiful ensure that the elites continue to dip their toe in only the very best genetic pool.
And so on.
We just can’t get enough of this elite genetic hierarchy. And who cares, right? It’s always been that way. Now we just have more ways to fetishise it.
And maybe there’s nothing wrong with that. And maybe this has nothing to do with our politics.
Or maybe there is. And maybe it does.
Because last night — lost in a sea of policies and manifestos that toe the line between idealism and ideology; complacency and compromise; ridiculousness and reasonableness; grappling, by turns, with a tired, unshakeable sense of the endless status quo and a childish, ideological intransigence that somehow doesn’t seem fit for purpose anymore — I started to wonder about this implicit sense of unquesting practicality and done-deal disenchantment that has somehow crept into our politics.
I started to wonder where else this attitude has crept into our lives. And I started to have a distinct feeling that, in this PT world, lightyears ahead in tech terms but somehow back in a place where natural selection is firmly in vogue, we’ve gone backward.
Because the flip side of this frivolous Tinder-pragmatism is an insidious, biological fatalism about the way the world is, verses the way we want the world to be.
It was the same attitude, in fact, that — not so long ago — sat at the heart of the Eugenics movement that dominated the thinking of British and American politicos and defined one of the most shameful periods of our history.
It’s an attitude we saw pouring forth from the braying ‘Parasitic Elite’ making their pilgrimage to the Oxford-Cambridge Boat race, (as captured by Vice) who explained, with staggering insight, that our nation’s elites are the elite because they’re the elite. Duh.
It’s the belief that underpins the structural inequality at the heart of our global economy, where the gap between rich and poor has never been so wide, and those at the top are more likely than ever to believe that their position in life is just natural selection: a direct result of skill and hard work, rather than long-term advantages, multiple opportunities and the un-level playing field that underpins our society.
And on the day of a General Election that demands hard choices between the haves and have-nots - maybe this should be making us all uncomfortable. Maybe, as we grapple with competing visions of the future and decide if we want a politics of realism, or a politics of fatalism; a politics of hope, or of la-la land, we should bear in mind the implications for a politics, not so long ago, that quit too soon on our capacity to reimagine ourselves for the better.
Or maybe we should just quit Tinder. Happy voting.
(Originally published on 07.05.15 on Medium: https://medium.com/@bexfelton/british-people-before-you-vote-think-about-tinder-def6bb27ab95)