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Symbolic Forest

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Blog : Posts tagged with ‘authoritarianism’

The nightmare realms

Or, some things are too awful to talk about

Very long-term readers, or people who have gone delving around in the archives, might be aware that back when this site started, I used to talk about politics on a reasonably regular basis. Indeed, if you look in the menus (either down below or over on the right), you can see there’s a whole category for it. Since the restart, though, there really hasn’t been anything political that I have wanted to write about, or thought it worth writing about at all.

Fifteen years ago, British politics was in a pretty moribund state. The passion that led from getting a Labour government into power on a landslide win had faded. The Tories flailed aimlessly for a few years before settling on a leader with a shiny, plastic PR-friendly exterior and barely anything on the inside beyond a passionate over-confidence in his own ability. Labour were just…tired, fading away into a party mostly consisting of bland interchangeable technocrats. The feeling I had was: it didn’t matter back then what you thought about politics. Everything was just a bland porridge of centrist-looking parties not wanting to rock the boat, not doing anything too controversial or too likely to upset the press barons, mostly interested in finding some sort of grey consensus. There was a vague sense of religious morality underlying everything, a vague tinge of disapproval of anything sexual that wasn’t straight, cis and vanilla; but otherwise nobody seemed to have any passion or aims beyond their own careers.

I somehow predicted the planned outcome of the 2010 General Election five years ahead of time, and could see that the Tories were slowly and painfully pulling themselves apart as a party, but almost everything else I tried to predict about what might happen to the world, politically, turned out to be wrong. I suppose that’s still a better success rate than most political journalists who actually get paid to ramble, but nevertheless, I still feel as if maybe fifteen years ago I should have realised the extent of the precipice we were on, and just how far we were going to fall, when people realised just how to take advantage of the online world, and of the bland vacuity that was 2000s politics. I didn’t realise the Tories would keep themselves alive by trying to absorb every opinion to the right of them. Eight or nine years or so later, their ploys all played off, and we have been in the nightmare timeline ever since. We should have seen in coming.

So now, why would I want to write about politics, when it is worse, darker, more divisive, than anything I would have ever imagined? Fifteen years ago, you often would hear people saying they didn’t trust politicians, that they never told the truth, that no politician was ever honourable. People have taken advantage of that: if nobody ever trusted politicians, why should they even try to tell the truth? Why should they even try to behave with honour? In Britain the government has made it clear that laws are for others to obey and them to ignore, whether at the level of international relations or at the level of individuals. It seems pointless sometimes to point out just how poisonous this is. All we can do is try to still behave honourably ourselves. In this morning’s news, the American president has apparently come down with the ongoing pandemic disease, one that—given his age and ill health—has a high chance of either killing him outright or leaving him even more mentally impaired than he already is. Given he has recently claimed the disease is a hoax, given that by both accident and design he tells multiple lies every single day, it seems impossible, a few hours later, to tell whether he actually has it or not.

Hopefully, one day, there will be light on the horizon and politics will be boring again. Hopefully one day all the politicians will be interchangeably bland. Looking back, we didn’t realise just how lucky that was. Maybe my ambition for the first year of this blog’s relaunch should be to end up with more posts in the “Trains” category than the “Political” one, because those posts will be much more fun and healthier to both read and write.

He is human, she is human

In which we don’t see the difference between genders

Yesterday’s Guardian featured a long piece, trailed on the front page, about transsexuality, and how some people have, apparently, been pushed into having sex change operations against their will. A bad, bad thing, of course – people should never be pushed or persuaded into any sort of serious medical treatment.

There’s a good reason to be a bit wary about the article, though. It’s written by feminist activist Julie Bindel, who has a long history of writing anti-transsexuality articles for the Guardian. I assume from this interview that she follows Sheila Jeffreys’ position that gender reassignment is merely a type of cosmetic surgery, and therefore automatically an Evil Thing; and she has a rather nasty authoritarian streak. She knows what is best for all of us, and anyone who thinks otherwise has been diverted from the true path by the male-driven establishment. Or something along those lines, at any rate.

It’s interesting that it comes just the day before the inauguration of Britain’s first transsexual mayor, Jenny Bailey of Cambridge. My paranoid side wondered at first if Bindel had known that was coming when she wrote her article; I doubt it, to be honest. The only downside to Bailey’s position, though, is the fact that it’s a news story at all. In an ideal world, there’s no reason for “Transsexual does X”, or Homosexual does Y” to be a news story at all, in the same way that “Woman does A” and “Minority Person does B” are disappearing from the news. Maybe one day, people really will all be treated just as people – well, I can hope, can’t I?

Identity

In which we look at ID Card plans

Some good political news on the way for once: whilst The Guardian is reporting that the goverment ID card scheme is behind schedule with no firm dates set, according to The Register, the scheme is definitely out the window. This is based on a cunning analysis of the various proposals so far, which demonstrates that they can’t possibly be completed by the next election, never mind 2008 as the government has promised.

It’s hopeful news, but it doesn’t mean boneheaded, stupid government decisions won’t keep going on. For one thing, the government is palming a lot of the ID Card preparatory work off onto the Passports Agency, because its position is that the Passports Agency can do pretty much anything the government likes relating to passports, without Parliament or anybody else being able to object. The ID card scheme is getting more and more bad press as time goes on. A cynic might even wonder if some government factions are encouraging anti-card publicity, to make themselves look even better when they claim responsibility for eventually abandoning the scheme. It’s no good abandoning the concept of the little plastic card, though, if the nasty database part of the scheme is still lurking in the bowels of the Passport Agency.

Authoritarianism

In which power goes to people’s heads

I said yesterday that politics hasn’t been interesting me lately. It’s not so much that I’m feeling a lack of interest, but I’m trying to block out just how authoritarian this government is becoming. As was shown by yesterday’s prime-ministerial speech on Justice: “Justice should mean summary justice” was one of its messages. The other was: “I want to lock up anyone I don’t like, but those nasty judges won’t let me.”

The one thing I fear, more than anything, from all of the politicians in power or likely to get into power, is that they all have a love of power more than anything else. They are addicted to legislation, swingeing, unenforcable legislation, to try to pacify whichever newspaper editor has been loudest recently. They let themselves be pushed into draconian laws by whatever cause will sell papers, purely because they think it will help them stay in their beloved offices. They have a grand, noble cause: the grand, noble cause of self-interest.

Anyway, I’m off on holiday now. I’m going to sit back, relax, and try to stay away from the latest news updates; and blog about random passers-by in the street.

Democracy

In which we despise the authoritarian instinct

I’ve said it before, I’m sure, but I generally dislike pretty much all politicians. Some, though, I dislike more than others.

I particularly dislike it when people tell me that draconian and illiberal laws are necessary For Your Own Good. When people tell me that removing my right to freedom from arbitrary detention is really part of preserving my right to a greater, more nebulous freedom, which always remains mysteriously vague.

But what really disgusts me, is when people use innocent deaths, horrific deaths, deaths that deeply affected you and me, to push for ever-greater authoritarianism. No amount of detention without trial would have prevented the July attacks.

That’s just a few reasons why I smiled when I heard today’s news.

(and, incidentally, anyone who does think that we do need 90-day detention without trial “because of the victims” should read what Rachel from North London has to say about it)