I spent two delightful hours in the presence of a chum today, rambling easily around the many subjects that divide people in the Western world. The two of us come at many common problems from diametrically opposed starting points in our respective scribblings, but the chance to sit and analyse our differences (largely without rancour) remains something very important to me. The mutual assumption is that the other person is not a complete f**kwit, and this is a refreshing change in our contemporary world of accusatory jerking of the knee…or indeed other parts of the anatomy.
We reached one point of 100% agreement at the session, and it was this: that the Mob doesn’t do ‘even handed’. And we agreed that most members of the Mob would rather have their hatred reinforced than look dispassionately at a bit of information at odds with their belief system.
This is a reality that has come to terrify me in recent months. The average human’s ability to change his or mind has never been hugely apparent: in 2014, you’d be hard-pushed to find any such ability at all.
A good example is something I regard as one of the more fundamental reasons why Centre-Left and Centre-Right (the old compass points on socio-political issues) seem unable to engage in any kind of united front against either command economics or neoliberalists. This revolves, I think, around the classic, blindingly obvious age-old question: do people have free will, or are their inherited genes and social experiences always destined to defeat them? As it happens, I’ve been reading some stuff by Peter Saunders of late. He’s an interesting man, in that he expresses serious yet accessible views about the issue:
There is a truly interesting extrapolation in that extract, about whether ‘circumstances of birth operated mainly to prevent less able, higher class children from failing, rather than to stop more able, lower class people from succeeding’. I think Saunders misses an element of the obvious here, in that the non-failing (ie, self-supporting) upscale kid is privileged, whereas the driven striver from below lacks a playing field sloping in an advantageous direction…especially beneath a government that favours the spiv over the unlikely hero. But even so, for me every society, tribe, pack and élite has always worked on a hierarchical basis: and the lazy grandson of the original Alpha male isn’t going to give up his advantage easily. Nevertheless, the new Alpha will be made a better, more justified leader as a result of the struggle.
Saunders goes on to observe something that I find ineluctably compelling as an argument:
His point here is that the Left assumes bigotry and self protection by the Establishment, but this hasn’t always been so by any means. Further (at any rate for me) the usual bourgeois Left’s patronising assumption applies: these poor little downtrodden people can’t hack it, and so they need our help. From this stems the belief in affirmative action and ‘forced equality’.
However, never before in my lifetime have I experienced a British government so immune to protest: my problem in 2014 is that, while I remain implacably opposed to preferring anyone on the basis of gender, ethnicity, social class or age, we have a self appointed élite in Britain that quite obviously does not want meritocracy at all. What the Hunts, Fallons, Yeos, Goves, Camerons and Osbornes desire above all else is a Cronystocracy: the handshake, the rig-out, and the unquestioning loyalty based on accent, school, University college or political leaning. The arrogant assumption is that they need the odd barrow-boy like Shapps or Murdoch to break the rules and hide the misdemeanours…..but in all other respects, that’s enough democracy and equality thank you very much.
The genuine irony – and it is tragic – of Britain today is that while the Labour Party’s public school post-war Socialists destroyed the social mobility of R A Butler’s 1944 Education Act two decades later via the regrettable Comprehensive revolution, the Tory shires protectionists so viscerally disliked by Thatcher have come through regardless to dominate the Conservative Party of class aspiration she worked so hard to put in place forever. (And if you doubt this, remember that the working class urban boy John Major was by far her preferred successor).
There are two points of philosophical confluence here. On the one hand, there is the rise and rise of an überklass hell-bent on establishing the dictatorship of the globaltariat. And on the other, a growing Underclass (misunderstood by the activist Left) practising the hatership of the bigotariat. I say ‘confluence’, because the two demographies may well turn out to be an ideal blend – if, that is, what you want is an unthinking under-Mob carrying out the silencing of those opposed to the Might is Right globalism of the über-élite.
This has happened before: as a student, I remember vividly the Liverpool dockers carrying banners expressing eternal devotion to Enoch Powell. Powell himself was a much misunderstood man, but his working class followers would have jumped off a cliff in admiration of some of his more dubious conclusions.
The political divide is as it has been for the best part of 175 years: does responsibility for social action lie with the State or the individual? My own view for forty years at least has been “with the individual, but with help from the State where deserved on the basis of disability and/or effort”.
But the Mob doesn’t do the weighing up and the balanced debate. Which is why – like Plato – we should always have a healthy dislike of untutored demos.