Here is New Labour’s Ed Milliband, one of the four little pigs currently competing with Diane Abbott for the leadership of New Labour. He is looking from above with some dismay at the result of the UK election:
‘The people have spoken and we don’t quite know what they’ve said.’
(The Guardian: ‘From Hung Parliament to Age of Uncertainty’)
And here is Romano Alquati (who died a bare few weeks ago) on the FIAT workers’ revolt of Piazza Statuta in Turin in 1962, looking at things from below:
‘Even though we had organized it we didn’t expect it.’
(Franco Berardi: ‘Romano Alquati è morto’)
The difference between these two quotations is important. Alquati’s irony is about the excess of achievement over anticipation and, indirectly, about openness: we advance into unanticipated, uncontrolled possibility. Milliband’s ruefulness is about insufficiency and about keeping control: I can’t quite hear what you’re saying is what he probably means; if we knew what you wanted we would do it, but as things stand we can’t.