Quagmire Days

For some time now, the culture of the West has been one of what Christopher Lasch would no doubt have called delusional narcissism. This has been created in part by our technology, which has liberated us from the limiting struggles that used to characterise everyday life for the majority, and in part by a welcome relief from the oppression of industrial society, in which people were bullied and coralled as much as they lived their lives. We've now raised two generations of children to adulthood in English speaking countries on the false prospect of liberation and self-realisation through debt, and we have torn up both the humanist and the Christian inheritance.

The consequences are all around us. They manifest not just as a lack of ethics, but as a lack of understanding about why people need to be ethical, and as an angry response rather than a wise or patient one to anything challenging.

So it comes down to this. We stumble around, unable to work out what is good or bad, being willingly lied to by media whilst we let the poor bear the burden of the rich. We allow the middle classes everywhere to become debt slaves whilst systematically undermining working people and branding their reaction to various schemes to 'skill' rather than educate, or to exterminate, rather than celebrate, or to exploit rather than employ, as beyond the pale. Bankrupt, we rain million pound bombs on someone else's civil war and create a quagmire, which we will no doubt abandon in time, if we have any sense. And a large part of our educated classes bow before fascism, whether in the form of the undutied rich or the Islamist poor. These are the wages of liberal societies, paid out grudgingly to people who work hard, try to raise families, and want to be good, in debased coin.

People are beginning to sense this. Across the West, the anger of working people is connecting with the economic condition of the middle classes in a way that is puzzling the media and political classes, whose obsessions and concerns are meeting with indifference. As we wait for the economic shoes to drop—and they will—those who want something different should start thinking about what sort of different world they would want after the crisis. I have been making this point for three or four years now, depending on when you separate my calliope rambles about the crash that I and others saw coming from the post-crash fantasies of what to do next. My list of practical things would be quite simple--

1) A flat tax on income, services, goods and profit with no loopholes and no allowances, and the rest to be kept by individuals
2) universal credit rather than welfare, and more prisons.
3) Small local banks and credit unions federated by guarantee, and investment banks that are separate which can do whatever they want
4) A national, distributed, multi-campus University system, and a privatised Russell Group
5) Social ownership of utilities and an end to the grossly wasteful private finance initiative
6) Referendums on the European Union and NATO, the independence of Scotland and Northern Ireland, and legislative devolution for London ; the elimination of two thirds of local council representatives
7) A draft rather than a professional army; more houses than bombs.
8) Parliamentary recall, primaries, and a second ballot or alternative vote
9) A voucher system for schools, or free academies, or grammar schools, and professional teachers rather than brainwashed and industrialised facilitators
10) The extension of the Human Rights act to large corporations

All of this is all very well, of course. It will get nowhere, however, unless we remoralise. I don't mean some 'whitebread' personal priggishness—we're all flawed and all human and all capable of sins of one sort or another, of which hypocrisy is the most civilised vice. I mean that we should stop lying in business and to each other as public men and women about politics and the state. Peak oil, and peak food, need just be challenges, not fatal. Abjure war; stare the economy and the society in the eye, and believe in ourselves and in God again. That's the only way out of this mess, which will otherwise continue in descent.

Think we'll take the opportunity? I live in hope....


Anonymous said…
You forgot to mention building more prisons. Be careful, you might sound sane.

Mdme Pompom.
Martin Meenagh said…
No, I did mention it Madam. Pay attention.

Can you imagine how messed up a world in which I sound almost sane really is? I mean, honestly, it's somewhat disturbing that my doings on this blog are within a standard deviation of sigma. In fact, it's just wrong.

Let me take you seriously, though, because I think that you raise a reasonable point. Most people in this country, quite rightly, resile from the first liberal response to crime and disorder, which was perpetrated between 1780 and 1830 or so, and wouldn't hang scum. I wouldn't; there is always hope, and everyone matters. Most, including me, would never want the second, nineteenth century response back, which is to torture some people with repression and social expectation and starve or work the rest into submission whilst tolerating a vast, nasty underworld. Our modern response to crime appears to be to steal or dope the children we don't allow to terrorise the old and the vulnerable, to to leave the ones who do alone, to almost celebrate a vast industry of self-lobotomy based on drugs, and to patronise people with nonsense sentences and no retraining and hope within prisons, which we are letting private people run for a quiet life anyway. We're also criminalising things that are no use to criminalise except to raise money.

I'd like to see fewer and tougher sentences for proper crimes and not nonsense ones, and prisons as places where people get retrained and rehabilitated and given a chance at a proper education without TVs and cellphones whilst the public are protected and they are punished. That also means reforming the police, but they take their cue from the courts anyway.

That's why I go on about prisons--because otherwise, taxpayers and citizens are imprisoned in their own homes and the streets aren't ours and everyone is touched by fear and all the bad things that flow from it.

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