This update is not about the British Conservative party.
I had an interesting discussion late last year on the old twitterage. It started when I re-tweeted a quote by the renowned 19th century liberal thinker John Stuart Mill.
‘Although it is not true that all conservatives are stupid people, it is true that most stupid people are conservative.”
I had heard the quote before and it made me chuckle, I felt it was more cheeky than directly offensive. But I was wrong. My flippant little re-tweet caused a bit of a stir which, for reasons that can only throw a light on my naïveté, surprised me.
One very irate follower said he was stopping following me and unsubscribing from carpool, which was a shame. But this one rejection was joined by many other criticisms, one of them another quote and I’m afraid I don’t know who posted it, my slap dash wet liberal fail there, I should have made a note.
“If you are 20 and not a liberal you have no heart... If you are 45 and not a conservative you have no brain...”
Very amusing, but in my personal experience, utter nonsense.
I suppose this is based on to the assumption that at 20 you are poor and have an understanding about the plight of the less fortunate, but by the time you’re 45 you are better off, have dependents and harbor the fear that your security might be ‘taken away from you’ by some, unseen government or foreign force.
I am now seriously over 45 and I have had to accept I can never become a conservative. No matter how old I get I will never agree with the basic sentiments. My world view is just that, a world view, as opposed to a street view or a front window view.
In the UK we have just finished a long period of Labour government which we now know was led by people with such a narrow conservative outlook they made the traditional British Conservative party look positively benign.
However I’m not interested in the capital C conservative party, just like the Labour party they are now beyond all doubt, a devalued and morally defunct organization with dwindling broad support and membership riddled with corruption and self serving vanity. I totally respect and support the right of people to express their conservative opinions, but I’m never going to agree with them.
Here are my reasons.
Historically, the conservative consensus in the UK and the USA has held power for far longer and with far more regularity than any other political grouping in the last 200 years.
This conservative consensus has fought long and hard to resist any and every attempt at social and political reform, from the abolition of slavery, the right for non property owners to vote, the emancipation of women, the cessation of child labour, the removal of the death penalty, the legalisation of homosexuality and the introduction of fair employment practices.
They have also always fought to maintain class divisions, create their own special, either social or meritocratic exclusive enclaves, and have joked and still joke about ‘keeping out the riff raff.’
In the grand scheme of things, and that’s what I like to look at, these may be petty grievances but they adversely affected the lives of millions. It is the overriding effect this conservative attitude has on our development both technologically and socially which I find most distressing.
Any vitally important dramatic and ground level change in the way we live or organise ourselves has always been firmly resisted by conservative elements, and judging by the tone and demeanor of dead tree communicators like the Daily Mail, this attitude is normally informed by fear.
Change is scary; we don’t know if what we’ll change things too will be better or worse. And anyway, why do we need change, aren’t things better left as they are. It’s all too disturbing, who wants to think about it. Lock the doors, close the curtains, watch the X factor.
But if, like me, your world view is that the present way we live is not very good, or indeed, incredibly short sighted and destructive, then we know we will have to change.
Putting your finger on exactly what has changed is always very hard. After World War 2 there was a period of enormous social and political upheaval in the UK, universal education and health care, a gradual reduction in the gap between the richest and poorest. A stumbling, inefficient, annoying and slow journey toward something resembling equality. I’m not defending the old school socialists in the post war Labour government, they were as hypocritical and self serving as any that followed, but there was undoubtedly the general broad desire to create a society less riven with class and wealth divisions.
In the period since Margaret Thatcher this has all, as we now know, gone into brutal reverse. The worship of the free market and unregulated corporations has resulted in the greatest gap between richest and poorest in human history. There was a radical loony lefty political theatre group sponging off the state (I'm channelling the Daily Mail of course) in the 1970’s called, ‘7/84!’ They were called this because at the time in the UK, 7% of the population owned 84% of the wealth. I have just learned that this theatre company survived up until 2008 so it did very well.
But my how that has changed, the latest figures are around 2/65. 2% of the worlds population own 65% of the wealth. No matter how you look at it, where you stand politically, I do not believe this can be seen as good, healthy, sensible, fair, a natural and successful result of healthy free market capitalism.
The same has happened in our education system in this country. Since the last Grammar School (state) educated Prime Minister (John Major) we have had a string of posh boys running the country. The house of commons is now filled with over 60% privately educated members which, however you cut the numbers, come from less than 7% of the general population. We are ruled by an exclusive wealthy elite and they are in turn funded by an even more exclusive, even wealthier super elite. The British Conservative party is very well funded by the most obscure, unknown multi billionaires. To expect the current administration to deal with the open and obvious crimes, tax avoidance and corruption which are the bedrock of the city of London is tragic in it’s naivety.
But that’s just the political elite who in the grand scheme of things are irrelevant. In the grander sweep of history I do sense a much more fundamental change beginning to take place. It’s going to take years, the forces opposed to any such change are well entrenched and determined to cling to power, as we have just seen in Egypt.
Without the shackles of old school communism which effectively destroyed opposition to the conservative social bastions for 80 years, there is nothing conservatives can point to and say ‘what, d’you want to live like that?’ Anyone who is not conservative can point down their street, point over the wall of the gated community, point at the glass towers of the lazy and greedy, point at the closed hospitals and libraries and universities that only the rich can afford to attend and say, ‘what, do we want to live like this?’
‘Do we want to live in a world where the rich get vomit inducingly richer, don’t pay tax, ensure that the trickle down effect remains a cruel myth, ensure that the poor get chronically poorer and have less chance of ever doing anything about it.’
I think the answer is, no we don’t, and the current conservative world view is just as short term, self serving, lazy, greedy and essentially stupid as it has ever been.
The world, I believe, is currently looking for a fresh alternative to the dominance of markets, of fiscal policy, of unfettered consumption, of the endless, soulless desire for wealth, and while I've got the chance, clearly religion is not the solution, religion is part of the wretched problem. Religion is always part of the power system and it's the whole power system that needs to fail, crumble and be gently, politely, swept away.