The hippies were wrong

There’s an odd contradiction in Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh’s scathing denunciation of the British political elite. At one point she says “as long as the books get balanced”, clearly implying that economic considerations are the primary concern of the corrupt and incompetent clique which has inexplicably inveigled its way into power. Later, however, she refers to British Nationalism’s isolationist obsession with “taking back control of borders, whatever the human or economic cost”, implying that economic considerations are subsidiary to ideological imperatives.

I do not for one moment suppose this contradiction to be the product of loose-thinking on the part of Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh. Rather, it is an inconsistency which derives from and reflects the bedlam chaos at the heart of the British state. Chaos in the sense of disorder. Disorder in the sense of both pandemonium and disease.

British politics is beset by a chaos in which the dogmas of neo-liberal economic orthodoxy and elitist nationalism clash and cooperate and combine and compete in ever more erratic ways. It is a disorder of politics and of basic humanity. A disease which strips the afflicted of all inexpedient empathy.

The hippies got it wrong. As did dystopian cynics – or whatever the opposite of a hippy may be. It is not love that matters. Nor is it hate. It is fear. Fear is the great engine of life. For life is simply the avoidance of fearful death. It is fear which drives all human affairs from the interpersonal to the international. Fear and its antidote – power! We are all afraid of everything all of the time. So we all seek power in order to allay the fear. Thus, all human interactions are transactions in power; a constant and largely unconscious bargaining process in which we seek to optimise our power so as to minimise our fear.

Money gives form to this trade in power. Politics is what we call the bargaining process. An inordinate lust for money and power betokens great fear. An excessive imbalance between power and fear denotes a failure of politics.

The politics of fear breeds fearful politicians. Fearful politicians crave and accumulate extraordinary power. This unnatural accretion of power creates an insupportable social imbalance. On the losing side of that imbalance, fear inevitably increases. Politicians exploit this fear. The politics of fear breeds fearful politicians. A vicious cycle resulting in an inexorable descent into chaos.

Empathy hinders the acquisition of power. The greater the fear, the greater the hunger for power. The greater the hunger for power, the greater the need to suppress empathy. Eventually, empathy is crushed out of existence. What remains is Iain Duncan Smith.

It is not difficult to see how the processes outlined here must lead to chaos. Or how chronic inhibition of empathy can develop into a pathological disconnection from society, humanity and reality. And we’re back to Iain Duncan Smith again.

Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh tries to describe the imbecilic haphazardness and mindless cruelty that characterises what the British political elite has become. But the senselessness and insensitivity defy language.

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3 thoughts on “The hippies were wrong

  1. There has for a while been this conflict between the kind of conservatism that believes itself to be morally superior and entitled to erect borders to protect itself from the irrationalities of Johnny Foreigner, and the kind that is prepared to forego it’s prejudice against all thing other in order to make money. The Conservative Party is almost defined by this tension.

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  2. From the end of WW II till the end of the 1960s, and even into the 1970s, to an extent, the UK, or Britain as it was called then, managed to placate the worst elements of Toryism in a social consensus that actually worked most of the time. The best of them appeared to believe that the poor sodding hoi polloi deserved some comfort after their sacrifice, and support of the country, and, albeit reluctantly, they gave their condescending nod to state works and public services that had never been experienced by said hoi polloi before. Underneath all that apparent magnanimity, however, the worst of them were still full of that sense of entitlement and outrage that the great unwashed should benefit at all from anything, their philosophy being that nothing at all should ever be ceded to those born to serve and toil unless it was totally unavoidable, as, say, in the face of revolutionary threat. When Thatcher came to power, although the benefits of post war change were beginning to be reined in a little, life was still relatively stable for those on the lower rungs of the societal ladder.

    The advent of Thatcherism changed everything rapidly, and opposition fell like skittles as the working class was turned on itself, and those beneath it who had no work: the era of ‘everything has to be paid for’ had arrived. What no one articulated, of course, was that those at the lower end of the social scale had been paying all along, had always paid, but they were made to feel that they had become used to a lifestyle that could not be afforded: universities were no longer places of learning, but had to transform themselves into business models to survive the expansion of education; the unions were a blight on the smooth working of the state and economy; and those who were, in any way, ‘not pulling their weight’ were castigated as ‘freeloaders’. State assets, belonging to all, were sold off to the lowest bidder, usually Tory party donors; the unions had their wings clipped and could soar no more; and ordinary people were allowed to buy their own homes, while councils were forbidden to borrow to replace them.

    The Labour party, when it did come to power after being out of power for a long time, sold out to the overriding principle that ‘greed is good’ and wealth should not preclude Labour participation. At one and the same time, both Tories and Labour betrayed the ordinary people, and the Lib Dems, evolved out of the old Labour party and the old, principled Liberals became the Tory Lites of the political scene. From there, things have gone from bad to worse, as neoliberalism took hold for real, bringing us to the point where working class people (mainly in England) voted to expel immigrants and migrants in a Brexit madness that was never going to solve their deep-seated economic problems, but was always intended by the top-ranking Brexiteers to be a way to wrest the UK out of the, often, social rules that made working class lives at least tolerable most of the time, into a completely neoliberal jungle, the kind that America had been espousing for a very long time (both Republicans and Democrats).

    If anyone believes that this will do anything other than open up the gates to the sociopathic wealth seekers whose narrow definition of rights does not extend to anyone’s beyond their own, needs to think again. The EU is far from perfect, but it is as a lifeboat on the tossing sea as against the sharks picking off those tossed into the ocean by deliberate economic preferences. It will almost certainly destroy the UK as a political and social unit, but it will also, very probably, bring about that social/political revolution that has been threatening to engulf the UK for several centuries and has, in the past, always been staved off by last-minute brutality coupled with a modicum of good sense. That good sense is gone now, replaced by politican/social sociopathy that sees only brutality as a coercive force. It will, of course, bring them – the power-hungry, economic sociopaths – down, but at what cost to all of us on these Isles?

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