Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Britain, in all its hypocritical splendour

As people batten down the hatches awaiting whatever fate awaits them, it is profoundly reassuring that Parliament will be reconvened on Thursday for non-partisan hand-wringing.  The queues of politicians lining up to agree violently that criminality is wrong will do precisely nothing to add to the stock of human knowledge or provide us with confidence that there is any mind, let alone, a controlling one, at work.

The profusion of spivs and inadequates at the top of the government is depressing.  Wheeling out Theresa May as Home Secretary and Eric Pickles, that most risible combination of Mr Creosote and Moby Dick, to opine on "communities" demonstrates the chasm between those who claim to rule and the rest of us.  There is something so palpably inadequate about their empathy, their sincerity and their intellectual capabilities to cause even the most hardened optimist to despair. 

Then there are the half-witted right-wing commentariat.  I daren't look to see what Melanie Phillips thinks about the current situation, but I'm sure that she will find some means of blaming the BBC.  Then you have the "shoot 'em before you string them up from a lamp-post" lynch-mobs, who inhabit the "comment" sections of every web-site, doing battle with the weird fringe who don't believe that any form of individual responsibility is part of the obligations for acquiring the status of citizen or sentient being.  Add to this the knee-jerkers who spend their lives blaming everything from the Black Death to Hampshire's woeful County Championship form on the Coalition and there is much noise but zero insight being added to the situation.

What is needed at this stage of the process is some narrative of a way forward.  Flooding the streets of London with police may or may not work tonight, but there needs to be something much more focused on rewarding people whose community spirit is spontaneous and generous.  This is Deluded Dave's "Big Society" at work, unifying people at times of crisis and expressing disgust, horror and determination, but without the low conceptual framework that has typified every initiative that has spewed out of his semi-formed ideology since he ascended to the Tory leadership.  Trying to annexe communitarian spirit is akin to wrapping oneself in the Union Jack and won't wash, when half the communities trying to recover from these outrages are in a position of losing essential services while the UK government continues to support foreign adventurism and the illusion that the UK remains a global military power, and allocate vaster sums of money to replacing a nuclear arsenal that is more and more irrelevant in the 21st century.

So we get politicians seeking photo opportunities, and the near lockdown of entire areas through either fear or voluntary retreat by those whose activities keep the economy moving.  I'm increasingly moving to a Hard Liberal position where once the consequences of lawlessness are spelt out, then the perpetrators of violence, theft and intimidation are effectively beyond the point where they can expect to be protected from proportionate responses to their actions; this includes much more assertive policing and exemplary sentencing, as the vast majority of the population have not resorted to lawlessness and thuggery despite the provocations of our intolerable political hegemony.  Grievances can be expressed peacefully, with much noise and creativity, if they are genuine, and nobody is arguing that the provisions of the Civil Contingencies Act (which are hideous in their assault on the liberty of the citizen) should be applied as yet.

If Cameron and Johnson were anything other than clowns in the pay of multinationals, floundering now that Murdoch's moral vacuum has deprived them of at least one noisy paymaster, then they would be peddling strong, zero-tolerance police tactics now as well as a narrative that examines the causes of social dislocation (inequality, lack of social and geographical mobility, poor education and the dismal state of much of Britain's social infrastructure and built environment are a few for starters) and comes up with a convincing vision as to how to address them and build some form of consensus.  Instead we get monkey-on-a-stick platitudes and the near-certainty that their arrogance will fan further discontent.

The best suggestion that I have heard today is that, given we are building aircraft carriers with no aircraft to carry, they could be converted to prison hulks.  An appropriately Victorian solution to a situation that bears more resemblance to something out of Engels or Mayhew than a supposedly modern world.  Not a solution, but a certain amount of whistling in the dark.

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