Feeling rather low on Christmas cheer I was glad to come across the blogpost below. In this excellent piece the author managed to express, much better than I would have been able, what is wrong with this Christmas record.
I spent most of my working life in the service of the NHS trying to help the elderly and the mentally ill. In the latter half of my time, I realised that the NHS was no longer delivering healthcare well and outcomes were falling below that of of other comparable European countries. In particular it seemed to be failing the elderly and those with chronic conditions.
Unfortunately attempts to look at alternative ways of working and organizing were rarely pursued as any discussion was held to be breaking a taboo – the taboo that the NHS is wonderful, and provides excellent and comprehensive care. When this was questioned, even gently, we were warned that any attempt to change matters would result in patients dying in the gutters destitute after paying for healthcare and the elderly and infirm kicked out of their homes, as we presume happens elsewhere.
As I travelled widely and saw other healthcare systems in Europe I realised that we could learn from our colleagues there. But a closed mind is a barrier to education. We cover our eyes to the failings of the NHS and lay the blame on inadequate funding when alternative systems spend similar amounts and produce better outcomes. Now it seems we can also close our ears to any doubts and sing along to the company tune – The NHS is great, our saviour in times of need, pure in word and deed, only those with black hearts fail to see the Glory.
I watched BBC Question Time last night despite it having an extremely lack lustre cast. I knew before it started no heather was going to be set on fire. I was not wrong.
Twice during the show issues of censorship and control were discussed. Firstly, concerning the petition to ban Donald Trump from entry to the UK and secondly to ban Tyson Fury from the BBC Sports Personality of the Year competition. It was generally agreed that Trump was an “odious idiot” and his and Tyson’s antediluvian views were held in contempt by both the panel and the audience. There were, as might be expected, no dissenting voices.
However, when it came to plans of action Caroline Flint stood on her own. She was for banning, blocking and censoring. Alone on the panel, but with some support from the noisy Corbynistas in the audience, she took the illiberal and authoritarian line. To be fair, she did get a little help from Vincent Cable towards the end but in general she was the sole voice demanding limits on who can say what and where they can say it. This illiberal strand of the left is now very well established. Labours’ last government threatened many areas of personal freedoms and nearly got as far as introducing ID cards for the population to carry.
The socialists have always had a tendency to authoritarianism and this risk has long been recognised. In 1872 there was a serious split in the International Working Men’s Association over the differences between the anarchists (lead by Mikhail Bakunin) who worried the authoritarian state was a real danger and the Marxists who viewed the state as a useful tool to bring forward socialism. However, this trait seems a more prevalent problem over recent decades.
I think it relates to the loss of principle and focus of the left. No longer do they argue for a planned economy knowing that this has been found wanting. No longer do they promote internationalism as globalization has done more in this regard than they could. No longer do they promote the rights of men rather preferring to look at subgroups of chosen victims for whom they can campaign. At the same time as they have no principles that can promote they also have no ability to demand attention as a solution to the world’s production problems; capitalism has done better than they could have ever thought in tackling the scourges of poverty and disease. Indeed even war seems to have become less frequent and damaging with the progress of capitalism. What have the left left ?
Like priests of old the left needs to claim an authority to rule without any empirical evidence. Unable to call on God to stamp authority on their moral code they have developed their own. Based on the philosophy of victimhood and the heresies of hate crime they are now the secular priesthood policing our words and thoughts. Like the priesthood of old the rules are slightly changed periodically to keep the public on its toes, even the most god-fearing can become sinners in error – ask Benedict Cumberbatch about it !
They keep their authority and power by claiming greater moral probity than us. They tell us that they are necessary to keep us on the path free from sin. We are, in their eyes children, unable to work out right from wrong and we must be kept safe from bad ideas lest they corrupt us. In their eyes we are unable to distinguish between the hard truth and a sugar coated lie. They fear that without them we could become heretics and that they are saving us from ourselves. We do not need them, or any of their ilk, and the sooner we realize this the better.
Whatever happens, Scots working for independence would be well advised to look at the recent history of Venezuela to avoid the mistake of believing an oil rich economy can by itself avoid the disaster of socialist planned economics.Whatever happens, Scots working for independence would be well advised to look at the recent history of Venezuela to avoid the mistake of believing an oil rich economy can by itself avoid the disaster of socialist planned economics.
Is there a more despicable slogan than “Not in my name” ? It is hard to imagine one. Alternatives that could have been used- “No War”, “Stop the bombing”, “No killing”, and so forth – would all have been superior. They would have focussed on what was being opposed. They would have argued against the dangers of death and destruction. They would have been clear and to the point.
But “not in my name” ! This turns things around. The most important issue is not the war, not the killing, not the dead or dying but the danger than someone might think that they agreed with it. This is the sanctimonious cry that “I didn’t do it, I knew better”. To the #notinmynamer it is more important that they escape any blame than we consider who dies where.
Sitting in the comfort of a safe home, enjoying the technologies and freedom of an affluent open society they also need to have clean souls and a feeling of superiority. As they hashtag an apt quotation, or repost a shameful picture, they signal their virtue; that they knew what was right and they are not to blame. There is no attempt to enter the debate, or find a solution to the horrors, simply an escape hatch from feelings of guilt and avoidance of difficult decisions.
Ironically anyone using the slogan ought to feel ashamed.
I sometimes wish I could be as certain as the people I know on social media. There, people are certain that they know what ISIS wants us to do, they know how to defeat them and they know that we should not go to war. They know that all other strategies are fool headed and wrong. It is possible for them, with a isolated quote or shameful picture, to know what path to take and the future outcomes which will follow.
Although I wish to avoid and end war whenever possible I am not a pacifist and not one who feels that war is always wrong. It seems to me that the only grounds for war are those of self-defence and when those grounds are met then war is indeed necessary. As I listened to the debates I was struck that many of the grounds for self-defence have been met and, despite the decriers, I was impressed by Hilary Benn’s call to oppose fascism.
In particular, as I watched BBC’s Questiontime last night, I was struck that Majiid Nawaz was the sole voice of reason and source of good counsel. He argued that the air-strikes are unlikely to be counter-productive (a fear of many #notinmynamer’s) and further would give support and defence to the Kurds already fighting this war (sometimes hindered by our ally Turkey).He makes a good case for calling for the use of article 5 of NATO and the doctrine of collective defence. (article)
There is one aspect of this problem that is fairly clear while everything else remains difficult and ambiguous; that is, the need to defend free societies against fascism. It was the defining conflict of the last century and may, sadly, prove to be ours also.