Saturday, 12 November 2011

Does my society look big in this?

Whenever I need reminding that the Conservative Party is largely composed of rank hypocrites and charlatans there are several reliable weather-cocks that emerge from the pustulent hinterlands - the Chancellor's temerity in calling schoolboy abuse from the European sidelines, or the incomptent denial of the Home Secretary that her position in government depends on taking responsbility for her decisions and those of her department - that prompt immediate, Pavlovian slavering.

The greatest and most pernicious lie that they are peddling is within the risible myth of the "Big Society" and its relevance to the ravaging of the public realm and the liberty of the subject.  At its best it might be a resumption of a tolerant voluntarism, whereby the doctrine of self-help and freedom from the state is developed, and it promotes the liberty of the citizen.  However, since the Tories are involved it is far more a matter of suburban, petty-bourgeois puritanism, where only those actions deemed acceptable by a cabal of scared delusionals are to be given an endorsement.  Subverting the theory becomes a far more appealing anarchic gesture given that its underpinnings can be turned into a leftist, libertarian promotion of plurality.

However, the real motivation appears to be an inversion of paternalism.  Victorian Tories worked on a basis of "noblesse oblige" - partly from moral imperatives but principally recognising that inequalities and poverty required at least some token measures from those with economic and social power.  This was replaced by at least some form of state-backed solidarity through the acceptance of Liberal and socialist conceptions that the role of the individual is not that of a forelock-tugging subject but as a citizen with basic entitlements to share in the wider prosperity. 

Thatcher's statement that "there is no such thing as society" is much closer to the current Tory party's ideology than the smug platitudes of the millionaire humbugs who populate its leadership.  The mantra of everyone being in the bankers' mess together is repeated ad nauseam, while attacking the public realm and its associated people through penal sanctions on pay, terms of employment, turning a blind eye to the failure of the financial sector to either reform or deliver its side of the bargain for being bailed out by the people.  No wonder the inchoate rage of the Occupy London movement is attractive when the entire motivation of one of the governing parties appears to be to punish the people for the sins of an unaccountable, elite group, whose perversion of probity has obviously got many of the current Cabinet to where they are today.

Perhaps people would be more inclined to support "big society" initiatives if they felt this wasn't filling in the gaps in public service that are being created by the mania to introduce private profit at every stage of existence - in the deluded and discredited idea that the private sector is a watchword for "efficiency" and can wreak transformational magic in the seconds it takes to spell "out-sourcing" and explain why a hyphen is necessary for pedantry even in such an ugly neologism.  Why participate in a process that syphons off profit and redistributes wealth upwards (even more than Labour ever managed) - while eviscerating much of what remains of genuine democracy and accountability.  The "customer" of a service is not a democratic agent but an unwilling dupe of market chimera.

The closing-down of political discourse is evident - even around issues that should not be partisan.  Appropriating Armistice Day into the mythology of social cohesion has been ongoing - particularly amongst those who believe that enforcing outward conformity is a further means of restoring a comfortable Little Englander mentality.  I admire those who choose to go into the armed services today, but wearing poppies commemorates those people who did not necessarily elect to fall for their countries - the key word is "choice"; doing Blair and Camerson's dirty work is at least a positive decison.  The aspirational Tory tabloids appropriate the poppy as a symbol of creeping conformity, as do their numbed and cretinous followers, demeaning generations in all nations who sacrificed themselves in the name of causes defined by others.  Warped patriotism does nobody any favours.

This is all part of a desire to infantilise the population, and stigmatise anyone who raises their heads above a consensual parapet.  A clever technique, as it makes people complicit in their own marginalisation and apparently legitimises a fear of the "other" and induces hostility and incomprehension as to how anyone can even contemplate expressing dissent.  Clearly someone in Central Office has been reading up on the techniques of social control practiced in the latter half of the 1930s across the supposed ideological divide.

We live in a world of charlatans and spivs.  The "big society" con-trick may well backfire, as it is a substitute for genuine social solidarity.  The impact of an unaccoutable, greedy and amoral political and economic group will not go unnoticed - why the hell should the rest of the population support unsuccessful gamblers and pyramid-sellers?  An opposition narrative is needed - things can turn round given a proposition that values people, gives some equality to sacrifice and outcomes, and which does not pretend that closing the net curtains against the world outside is an acceptable response to the disintegration of a nation.

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