20 February 2011

What's the point?

Today Christopher Booker, backed up by Richard North, has written about the EU-made shambles that is rubbish collection as exacerbated in Britain by its maniacally elaborate enforcement. The words "cost effective" are kryptonite to bureaucrats everywhere; but the British sub-species seems to be particularly aggressive in seeking ways to impose niggling, unnecessary burdens on the rest of the population.

It may seem OTT to ascribe a philosophical underpinning to the squalid scramble to feed at the public trough, but it is essential to seek an explanation, not so much for the behaviour of people living at public expense, but for why that public has put up with their exponentially rising exactions, increasingly flagrant corruption and chronic incompetence for so long.

Part of it stems from envy. The ideal of equality or "fairness" in Britain comes down to the squalid sentiment that if I can't have it, nobody should. Envy is the enemy of aspiration, and it works at all social levels - particularly among the young. There is no difference between ghetto youths attacking the "oreos" who want to make something of themselves and public schoolboys victimising the studious as "swots".

From this, possibly, comes the apathy and cowardice among the general population that has been the main enabler of a relentless drive for the lowest common denominator in all aspects of social engineering. The adventurous and the ambitious have been fleeing Britain's deadening consensus for centuries, and the genetic pool left behind must have been diminished by the diaspora.

Unfortunately, although in the past immigration by Huguenots, Jews, Eastern Europeans and others fleeing oppression injected new dynamism, more recently it has mainly added ethnic sub-groups nurturing historic grievances and demanding special entitlements with the active encouragement of the British bureaucracy.

But something else must be at work for those more blessed by nature to subscribe to the general malaise. Although most of them will never have heard of it, I believe it lies in the perversion of Immanuel Kant's categorical imperative:
Act only according to that maxim by which you can at the same time will that it should become a universal law. 
It is the sentiment that underlies a sense of duty and of social obligation; but the sting in the tail is the last bit, the "will that it should become a universal law". From "will" to "enact" may seem barely a step, yet there is a gulf between the two into which, without exception, all social engineering legislation falls, however well-meaning. That gulf is the moral disempowerment of the population the legislation is supposed to benefit.

From which, after many decades of relentless social engineering, we have a de-moralized as well as demoralized society, governed either by cynics who use the slogans of a more idealistic past as a smokescreen for looting the public purse, or by arrogantly ignorant theorists like our current prime minister and deputy prime minister. Ignorant because what they fondly believe are new ideas are old and failed expedients; arrogant because they believe that their will can overcome profound institutional inertia and widespread societal indifference.

They all end up in the same place. Those who enter politics with an eye to filling their pockets do so. The idealists take another course: they come to despise the people who do not respond to their exhortations and, most notoriously in the case of Blair (on whom the charisma-lite David Cameron seeks, without success, to model himself), persuade themselves that their public service deserves generous private reward.

I do not see any way that the Gadarene rush to the final extinction of everything that was once distinctive and admirable in Britain can be halted or even re-directed. As Yeats put it in "The Second Coming":  
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
Bear in mind he wrote that in 1919, in my opinion the moment when British society changed irrevocably for the worse. If Britain had been governed by decent people instead of the profiteering scum and opportunists* who backed Lloyd George (who himself stole money donated by Carnegie to help the war wounded), the enormous sacrifice of the Great War and the social solidarity of the trenches might have transcribed into a more just society.

Instead there was a betrayal of hope so egregious that I believe it broke the spirit of the British people. The welfare state that might have been created in 1919, when Britain was still a wealthy nation, was built instead in bankruptcy after World War II. The will for a better life dashed in 1919 came back in 1945 as the grimly determined sense of entitlement that has been the curse of Britain ever since.

Barring defeat in war and occupation, I know of no society that has ever broken out of a spiral of decline. Social revolutions are generally conservative phenomena sparked by economic changes that threaten the lower middle class, which supplies the principal clientele for socialist parties.

That class, roughly defined as shitting downwards and snarling upwards, holds absolute sway in Britain. It is unmoved by facts or logic, and knows no reasons other than its precarious social and economic status, and the desperate fear of change it generates. Everything else follows from that. 

* Including the devouringly ambitious Winston Churchill, desperate to recover from his humiliation over the Dardanelles fiasco.

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