Every normal man must be tempted at times to spit on his hands, hoist the black flag, and begin to slit throats.
- H. L. Mencken
Urgh. Another day, another moronic attempt at self-justification by a New Labour cheerleader. The suspects are not new, and neither is the subject, but simply because of the concentration of hideous sentiment that are far too common among the political elite of the moment, it deserves attention.
As the cheerleader in chief, Polly Toynbee points out, Monday was International Human Rights Day, a day that has become increasingly important in a world where rendition, torture and suspension of haebus corpus under the guise of counter-terrorism legislation is a fact of life not only under faraway dictatorships, but supposedly free and democratic countries.
Yet, for the likes of Toynbee and the rest of the Bolsheviks masquerading as Fascists in Parliament, this is not a cause for concern, because the decade of rule under Labour has been the best for freedom. Apparently independently investigated police are much more important than the fact that the same police can arrest and fine you for insulting Our Glorious (ex) Leader, to make one of many comparisons.
Furthermore, she dismisses the brilliantly concise reply from Henry Porter as enabling the privileged classes to engage in fashionable persecution paranoia. While some of his claims may have been contentious, can anyone really consider laws that create arbitrary zones of trespass and the interception of all major communication systems without recourse to even a court as being those of a government concerned with liberty and freedom?
Apparently so. Because, you see, these are individual rights. Apparently, this isn't done for the individual good, oh no. This is done because the state has a duty to all, and your rights stop where...well, somewhere along the line to be defined at a later date. Arbitrarily, knowing this government, for whom “well-defined and limited” is a foreign, and possibly dirty term. Either way, because your individual right to not be spied on for no reason conflicts with my right to not be murdered in my bed by swarthy foreign extremists, your right is clearly the lesser.
The real battles are not to be waged on these grounds. There are far more important and pressing issues. Such as neglect. Liberty is a lesser necessity, don't you know? If you didn't, you can look it up on Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs. See its, science, we cannot start whinging about silly little things like removing the right to be tried by your peers until everything else in society is perfect. So sit down and put your little banners away (because the police will only beat the shit out of you and throw you in jail if you dare to use them near Parliament anyway). I presume soon we will bring Solidarity and Vaclav Havel to task for their pathetic right wing agitation which bought down the Warsaw Pact before the Soviets could eliminate poverty.
Best of all, this silly insistence on individual claims is just another right-wing wolf dressed up in leftist clothing. Oh yes, you may be for the minimum wage, a mixed economy and the use of government spending to help cure social ills, but if you start getting funny ideas about you being a sovereign individual with inalienable rights, then you're a tool of a vast right wing conspiracy. And no, we wont refund your centre-left club membership card either, you traitorous little scumbag.
Its articles like these that make me question my stated political affiliation. If left-leaning, Millian liberalism is going to be associated with this sort of morally bankrupt political philosophy, then fuck it – I'm now a rather weak-willed anarchist (“gently push over the State!”). I have no problem with what I think, its just if I don't spend 20 minutes trying to explain the essential ideas from On Liberty to a curious bystander, I'll likely be considered a believer in the above garbage.
Even worse, its allowed the Tories, the bloody Tories, to claim some sort of moral high ground and present themselves as a party dedicated to freedom. Freedom? Hah! Liberty? Sure, if you're white, male and rich, perhaps. Maybe one day the Tories will finally realize their plans to combine free market economics with social conservatism are doomed to failure, because the two don't actually mix, but that day is still far off.
Now, I know some of you out there may still be wondering, OK then, well what's your case that the state should be public enemy number one? Well I am glad you asked, oh literary-device-which-allows-me-to-move-onto-a-new-point. My position is very simple, and grounded in what I like to think of as common sense. It goes a little something like this: every single state, regardless of the people who run it, are capable of great evil and the mere existence of such concentrated power in the hands of so few, with so many resources to hand, constitutes a direct and ongoing threat to my personal freedom.
Did you catch all that? Good. Its a very simple position, which basically reverses the logic of a police state, that the possibility of threat leads to its actuality, back onto itself. People might be naughty, therefore we need lots of laws to protect YOU before they commit a crime. The State might be naughty, therefore we need a lack of laws and well defined limits on their powers to protect ME before they commit a crime.
And of course, the scope for crimes by the State are potentially so much higher than even the most ambitious individual could hope to aspire to. Ordinary people have, at best, mass murder and grand theft. Nations can inflict genocide and steal entire regions of resources. Not only can they, its happened fairly often before. They can keep hundreds of thousands in fear with their thuggery, engage in any form of theft they like, restrict your ability to move freely forever, torture, brutalize and rape...with impunity. While with the advent of WMDs ambitious individuals may be able to scale similar heights in murder and intimidation, states will long retain the monopoly, will to use violence, and legitimacy that your average, casual murderer lacks.
That's not to say the state cannot be a force for good. I'm rather keen on poor people making enough to actually live on, affordable housing, protection from people who actually intend to harm my liberty or person (as opposed to those the state says want to) and other similar things. But I fail to see how these, in any way conflict with not throwing people in jail simply because they dare to not show proper deference to their leaders. That's because it doesn't. It is a false dichotomy, an intellectually shallow position that tries to force the social conscience of people into accepting intolerable violations of their liberty.
Once you have a state which has the power to do such things, you have a serious problem. Because unless its the prelude to installing an 'enlightened' dictatorship, there is no way you can know the nature of the government in 10, 20 or 50 years time. People always forget that one, that their own favourite lia-um, politicians, will not be in power forever. And when was the last time you remember state power being voluntarily rolled back, once those special powers had been acquired? Exactly, almost never.
You can't dictate the terms of the future political landscape. You see, this is the problem with the inherently short sighted supporters of New Labour. We may not be in a police state, not yet. Widespread abuse of these powers has not happened. But the fact remains that the tools are already in place and all that is lacking is the political will, not the ability itself. The state cannot be trusted, because the nature of democracy inherently brings uncertainty into the future trends of policy. You'd think people who actually grasped the concept of voting would understand that.
All of the above is precisely why the state should always be viewed as the foremost enemy of liberty and the enemy of the public at large. Someone who views the state as their enemy is not going to be tricked into foolish nationalistic squabbles, isn't going to buy lines about excessive protections “for your own good” and in short, is not going to open themselves and the larger community as a whole to the sort of deprivations of state power which make up almost all of history for the last 100 years.
The state may be a necessary evil (depending on who you talk to, it may not be), but its certainly an evil of some sort. Trusting in it is the action of a fool or a madman, and no excuse can be made for it.