Posts Tagged ‘Rafael Behr’

Staying engaged without getting enraged with Rafael Behr at 1000 Trades

01/05/2023, 10:27:53 PM

by Jonathan Todd

People sometimes ask why I co-founded a pub. I don’t know what to say. I can’t immediately retrace the confluence of motives and circumstance. At least not in a way that I want to say out loud.

I think it is for nights like the 23 May when Rafael Behr will join us to talk about his book. For Birmingham Jazz, Birmingham !mprov, and Maker Monday. The pub as a hub of what makes life worth living.

We found the pub game at the bottom of the political greasy pole. My friend and co-founder, John Stapleton, discovered he preferred pulling pints to being a special adviser in the last Labour government. My efforts to become the first Labour MP for Westmorland and Lonsdale were praised by John Harris in The Guardian – but were much less warmly received by voters.

“In the communist regimes of Eastern Europe,” Behr writes, “political dissidents would talk about ‘internal emigration’. Denied the freedom to travel abroad, they would find sanctuary in the private recess of the mind. They would disengage from the external world of politics, inhabiting it only as a performance of themselves because that was what the regime demanded.”

1000 Trades began as a kind of internal emigration – only existing in our heads, usually on nights out. Bringing it into reality was a way to be the change that we wanted to see in the world that did not depend on politics. We did not get a CLP to select us. We did not win a vote in parliament. We just did it.

But politics kept intruding. “Brexit is killing the hospitality industry, with the number of venue closures rising sixfold in just a year,” recently reported The Independent. Covid-19 was not great for business either – we continue to pay back the government loan that we were grateful for. We fought and won a campaign against the ambitions of a developer to convert offices next door into flats.

We were forced to confront the central theme of Behr’s book: staying engaged without being enraged. “It is an essential task, because the repulsion of an engaged audience – the inducement of hopelessness and doubt that Britain will be governed better – gives succour to those who would make politics worse.”

The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward truth: to juxtapose Martin Luther King Jr and one of Behr’s arguments, which asks us to resist perennial gloom by recognising the reasons for optimism over longer time horizons.

“Imagine a newspaper that is published once every 50 years. On that cycle, the news looks a lot rosier than it does when churned out daily, or hourly, or every second on Twitter. Items in the most recent edition might include drastic rises in global living standards (around 1 in 10 people on earth live in poverty compared to 6 in 10 in the middle of twentieth century); the elimination of smallpox; the availability of food and education to billions of people who used to lack both.”


Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon