Friday 14 October 2016

Besieged on both sides

Other symbols of righteous anger are available

Quite a personal blog post this in many respects; but I hope to illustrate a wider political point and not cross the road into self indulgent whinging.

I reflect, I have always had an issue being told what to do. Much of this I internalised when I was small. I was born with a moderate physical disability and the prevailing educational discourse at the time was that individuals like me should be enrolled into special schools to learn life skills like getting dressed. Happily my father was having none of this and used his fairly limited means to enrol me in a private primary school, for which we paid a fee. He told me, time and again, how proud he was to take me to the panel which was to decide what kind of school I was to be enrolled into already dressed in the short trousers peaked cap and blazer of a prestigious mainstream primary school.

As I sit now, doing quite well for myself I reflect on the two lessons this has taught me. The first is a fierce distrust of men and women in dark suits who interfere with peoples lives in the public interest; and the second is the clear conviction that the ability to choose to opt out of the state system in any area of life should be a cherished right.

More than this however, I realise now I have a difficult time maintaining friendships. I love giving advice; I worked in the Citizens Advice Bureau and now I teach. (Which some might sound strange but I feel it's imperative for people like me to be in schools because I know that I make a difference because I know how the judgemental authoritarian manner of some teachers makes young people feel and perform). However, I am also hyperaware that un-looked for advice is fairly oppressive. Since friendship often entails advice giving I often find myself thinking; Well, this person probably doesn't want to hear from me on this. Which means that if the other person is also for one reason or another unwilling to initiate conversation we tend to drift sadly even if they might be people I miss deeply. The direct upshot of this is that the friends I have manage to attain the status of almost family, and whilst I have under 30 'friends' on Facebook, they are all people I would drive to the other end of the country to help if they needed me to.

The point, in case you are wondering, of this deeply self indulgent preamble is to try and explain that when I express ideas about how people should be treated these beliefs are not just things I have come up with out of thin air or that I think in a sort of academic way would be best, they are things I have internalised based on my life experience. I consider myself a liberal. That term has sort of run away from me and been hijacked by the leftist progressive movement so for the avoidance of confusion I tend to adopt the label 'classical liberal' or 'libertarian'.

To me, these terms are simple. Unless someone is hurting someone else (and I mean physically biting, kicking, punching) or stealing or breaking their stuff then you don't get to tell them the thing they are doing is wrong. You don't get to tell them off for what they might smoke, snort or inject, what they might do with there genitals and with whom. You don't get to harass them for the words they say or they way they make you feel. They live their lives, you live yours. Obviously there are some nuances and exceptions to be made but these are few and far between. It's a simple creed. I'm not sure why it has become so contentious.

Evidently it has.

On the one hand you have the conservatives, the moralising Christian democrats seem to be back in the wheelhouse. Ready to judge people for smoking, drinking, being gay, being unemployed, being foreign. I'd hoped these asshats had been driven out but apparently not.

On the other side of the fence we have progressives ready to judge people for eating meat, having money, dressing up in Halloween costumes, wearing offensive shirts, not conforming with their cultural lexicon and enjoying media that is not 'approved of'.

Conservatives and progressives like to set themselves up as the two sides of an almighty struggle for the very soul of mankind and on one worldview, on one axis, you can see how they are opposed. However, both are seeking to enforce an external morality; both are the opponents of what I call liberalism.

What really gets me though, is when you see progressive and conservative authoritarianism coalesce. When you see the Conservative Prime Minster get a steely glint in her eye and talk about the police locking people up for 'hate speech'. Oh dear. So now the conservatives are going to use progressive thought as a method of criminalising unwanted views.

How exciting. I for one can't wait until they have the technology to match up online comments to names and faces. Those will be exciting times. Trouble is, if the police are going around rounding up trolls and 'abusers' who's going to be left to round up the actual biting/kicking/punching/thieving crowd. 

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