He opened it to express his thoughts, but they were not his own. Boris Johnson’s mouth holds that CEOs and Kings are superior beings, that all the rest are less than human, that greed and unkindness and envy and fear – these are the values to yearn for. What kind of people do we want to be? We want to be mean and cruel and stupid and in charge. This is what humanity has learned.
From that mouth came a torrent that perfectly captured the way we live. So lost are we, so disfigured, that there is no resistance. As across history, the rich have once again disconnected, and now revert to the most primitive myth of all: the divine right of privilege. Unfettered, they believe they are the best and that they deserve what is theirs. They are the good. They are the strong. Indeed, it is precisely their strength and riches that prove they are best. See how God (the market) has favored them? Not quite trial by combat, but trial by money.
For the rest of us, we gaze dumbly, full of passive wonder, hungry spectators as our rulers strut and blow. We do not confront them. We want to be near them, to worship and pander. If another who lacks status should approach, we do as we were told to do and push them down. Scroungers! Foreigners! Chavs! Muslims! Women! Be mean. Be cruel. Envy. Greed. This is the kind of person we are taught we want to be. This is what humanity has learned.
Out of that mouth came the sing-song arrogance of self-congratulation, the careless hubris of a victorious class. As the Big Lebowski so eloquently put it, ‘the bums lost,’ and they really did. The left is defeated, the labour movement destroyed, public services dismantled and decency and any possibility of collective action – gone; disabled people assessed by computer; community centres closed; mass unemployment and a generation of wasted youth. And here comes the environment our elites have bequeathed us, the dirty growth, the land grabs and bureaucratisation, the dismantling of democracy. Bow to the market! Leave the bankers alone! Be passive! Ape their meanness and live in fear. They are the winners. This is what we have learned.
From Boris’s mouth came the views of the Tory party. They hate him not because he disagrees with them, but because he says aloud what they really think. They lie but barely know it, so lost are they in the collective hysteria of their victory. Gove calls others ‘ideological’. Cameron promises to preserve the NHS. Osborne says everything is fine. Boris does not speak, and nor can he think, for himself. The primitive vitriol that spews from him in fact expresses the learning, the forgetting, the studied stupidity of the victorious. From his mouth came the full horror of our circumstance. For, in truth, he was simply playing to the crowd.
And what does that say about the crowd? Is this the kind of people we want to be? Is this all that we have learned? Somehow, we must recall that ours is a voluntary servitude, one we are encouraged every day to chose. It is therefore also one we can refuse. Millions now watch that mouth with the sound turned off; we see it move, chewing, dribbling.
More than anything we want to find a way to learn, a way to be different, to stop the destruction and think and speak for ourselves.
One day, soon, he will play to a very different crowd.