Tag Archives: Athenian

The Alan Moore Jerusalem interview tapes, #1: Brexit, democracy and Stewart Lee

24 Sep
Stewart Lee

Stewart Lee: “the funniest man in the world,” says Moore

I recently spent six hours with Alan Moore. I wrote this feature about it. But the total interview transcript ran to 30,000 words. So, on my blog, in daily instalments, I’m going to be posting the edited highlights – as far as possible, all in Moore’s own words.

First up: Alan Moore on Brexit, reassuring Stewart Lee, and the small matter of exactly how to fix our broken democracy.

Alan Moore: “One of the things that upset me most about the referendum is that Stewart Lee, the comedian who I think is the funniest man in the world, phoned me up two days later seeking reassurance and cheering up. And I thought, ‘Oh fuck. Stewart lee is phoning me, with all my dystopian misery, because he wants cheering up!’

“He told me that he already phoned Chris Morris [writer of Brass Eye], and that Morris had said that he was practically terrified… that he looked out of his window, and he saw a wood pigeon, pecking about on his lawn, and thought, ‘That wood pigeon does not, and will never understand that we are withdrawing from the European Union.’ And he says: ‘And I took comfort in that.’ That is the most worrying moment, when you’ve got the best satirical comedian phoning you up for reassurance.

“I hadn’t realised how surrounded by idiots I was. That’s perhaps a harsh judgement [on the Brexit referendum], but it’s one that I’ll stick by.

“There’s a good line in Private Eye [the UK’s foremost satirical news magazine]: ‘Britain votes to exit frying pan’. I have spoken to the people I know who did vote Leave, many of whom the morning after said, ‘I don’t know if it was the right thing, it was kind of a protest vote’. A lot of them didn’t understand that if enough of you vote for a thing, it will happen! I think it’s completely idiotic. I do have a couple of friends who voted out for political reasons, and I respect that.

On whether he voted: “Of course I didn’t. I’m an anarchist. I don’t believe in democracy, and I think that this shows the massive flaws. If you’re going to have democracy in an ill-informed, massive population you’re always going to get shit like this. That is my opinion.

“And, I’ve often said, you cannot have democracy and Rupert Murdoch on the same planet. It’s like, how’s that going to work? The only way that democracy would work is if we were to adopt the Athenian direct democracy system.

“Now, I’m not championing the Athenians: they kept slaves, they weren’t perfect. But if they had got an issue that affected the whole country, they would appoint by lottery a jury, of say 50 people, from all walks of life, probably actually except the slaves, but the principle is: you’ve got a decision of national importance to be made, you have 50 people, then you have two people giving the pros and the cons, like in a court. Two experts explaining thoroughly the reasons for and against. Then you let them vote, then immediately you dissolve the jury; they dissolve back into the normal population.

“So straight away you remove the possibility of an administration voting for extra perks, pay rises, because they are not going to be the administration, it’s in their interests to vote for what is best for the broad mass of the population which they will be returning into. That would work.

“People have said, ‘oh well, direct democracy is just endless referendums’. No. You don’t need to ask everybody in the country, as long as you’ve got a representative section. That would work, and that would be a form of democracy that anarchists could vote for, because it would not be about appointing leaders. So, that is what I would favour.

On whether abstaining from voting is losing the power to effect change: “I would say that I believe all political action, for my own part, should be direct; I believe I can probably have, personally, more of a political effect than by simply voting for somebody.

I’ve been saying, for some years now, we need to change the whole political system from the ground up: modifying it, that won’t work. And there are other people saying this now. I was originally saying, first off, we need a national living wage, for everybody, irrespective of whether that person is in or out of work, that will end the poverty trap. It will be expensive, but not as expensive as Trident [the UK’s submarine-based nuclear weapons programme]. Also the administration costs that you would not have to pay anymore, that would pay for a lot of the benefits.”

Jerusalem is out now in hardback from Knockabout in the UK and Liveright in the US. To read the second part of Moore’s theories on government, click here. For the full interview feature, click here.