Tuesday, 13 November 2007

Liberty and the state: reasons to be scared

In ways that are substantially beyond my limited means, the infinitely brainy Mediocracy precisely dissects how the Bottler is attempting to redefine individual liberty, while appearing to espouse it, so as to increase the power of the state. You'll find his analysis here.

I suspect many will find it hard to disagree with. It is serious stuff.

But I think there is a further point worth making. Britain remains at heart an exceptionally stable, self-confident country. I suspect that even the most obviously uneducated teenager is aware of this, at however subterranean a level, even if he or she is unable to articulate it.

It is, self-evidently, the product of its past. In striking contrast to that of almost every other country in the world, it has known no major upheaval since, arguably, the failed Jacobite rebellion of 1745. Even Ireland, intermittently the most persistently destabilising element in British political life from the late 19th century onward, has failed to derail the country's fundamental sense of order and structure.

What this amounts to is an essential belief that, if you hold your nerve, any crisis can be surmounted. For close on 300 years, this underlying sense of order has prevailed. An empire was acquired and then (relatively painlessly: ask the French) disbanded. An industrial revolution was exported across the globe. Two world wars were fought and won (though the second emphatically only with the support of others). And democracy was extended.

Underpinning this was a Protestant monarchy, improbably evolved but strikingly successful, legitimising a parliamentary system of government, both absolutely bound by the rule of law. It may have been arrived at circuitously. But only the most perverse would claim that it didn't work.

The result was a country – occasionally complacent, more obviously strikingly fair minded – that could legitimately hold itself up as a model for the world. It was – is – a remarkable achievement for what as late as the early 16th century had been an isolated island outpost in a Europe that was itself still no more than a bit-part player on the wider world stage.

So why do I get the feeling that the Bottler, whatever his protestations of his essential Britishness, is attempting to unravel this inheritance? Well, as I say, Mediocracy supplies many of the answers.

But there are other reasons why I think we should all feel properly uneasy.

The Bottler is essentially pre-programmed. And that programme, whatever his claims to be a high-minded son of the manse, is the authentic voice of early 70s student agitation. Filtered through his own oddly stiff personality and, later, the advent and eventual success of media-friendly NuLabour, it has produced a bizarre combination of bigger government (which always knows best), inevitably funded by ever increasing taxes, and a desperate desire to spin and lie.

That said, a country as fundamentally stable and secure as Britain is surely capable of seeing off the likes of Brown. This, surely, is exactly our strength. Christ, if we can successively defeat Napoleon, the Kaiser and Hitler, Bottler Brown can hardly present much of a threat.

Except that this time it all feels more insidious. There is a significant sense that we are being undermined from within.

I can claim no kudos for having identified a truly terrifying quote from George Orwell's 1984 which I would say exactly sums up this chilling combination. So I am just going to quote it anyway (while tipping my hat to Mark Wadsworth, who flagged it up last night).

The new aristocracy was made up for the most part of bureaucrats, scientists, technicians, trade-union organizers, publicity experts, sociologists, teachers, journalists and professional politicians. These people, whose origins lay in the salaried middle class and the upper grades of the working class...

As compared with their opposite numbers in past ages, they were less avaricious, less tempted by luxury, hungrier for pure power, and, above all, more conscious of what they were doing and more intent on crushing opposition.

It's the hunger for 'pure power' that bothers me.

Just wait till ID cards are compulsorily introduced.

Then I would say the real measure of the Bottler will be revealed.


Mark Wadsworth said...

Ta for hat tip.

I think that first link at the word 'here' has gone awry, it just leads back to the still of the chap in front of the BB poster. Hmmm.

The Creator said...

I owe you twice over now. Link fixed. Many thanks for pointing out the problem.

Mark Wadsworth said...

My pleasure.

Yokel said...

The Bottler is essentially pre-programmed. And that programme, whatever his claims to be a high-minded son of the manse, is the authentic voice of early 70s student agitation.

About the same time as I was a student. Didn't pay much attention to student politics, that was for members of SocSoc (the Socialist Society). But I do remember Jack Straw of the "Broad Left" (a body so far left wing it made the Communist Party Marxist-Leninist look like a bunch of capitalists!) being President of the National Union of Students. Those were the days when NUS membership was compulsory, and funded along with tuition fees!

I wonder if former members of the Broad Left look after each other the way that Freemasons do, or "graduates" of Common Purpose do?

Any stones to turn over here?