Not much blog traffic this weekend so my start to the week felt like a great indifference. Instead I poured my energy into a new piece on the political situation in America which you can read over at Reaction.
Meanwhile, my post from last week on Lebedev has been bothering me for days. It left me wondering how much I’ve become jaded by politics. The point of that article had only been to voice some (perhaps misguided) optimism about journalism, rather than become year another depressing judgement about the state of our legislature. Yet today, somebody on Twitter noted their shock at how the son of a Russian oligarch can get into the Lords but not John Bercow or Dominic Grieve. It’s a fair point, though I know one wrapped in the Brexit debate. Yet it also shocks me that we are not more appalled by this that we should be. By “we” I also include myself. Surely, isn’t this one of those warnings that history was supposed to alert us about? When people lose faith in the political system, they become amenable to other political systems that might not have their interests at heart.
Was the first trick Putin played was convincing us that democracy wasn’t such a good idea?
Trust in politics feels to me to be in terminal decline and I don’t see how it’s rescued, though I also accept this is hardly new. But has it ever been this acute? It is cyclical? Might we need politicians to rescue us from something before we learn to trust them again. As it is, we learn that a Tory MP has been accused of rape but it is greeted by another shrug of the shoulders. Of course they have, we mutter, as if this is commonplace among the powerful for whom punishment seems such a quaint notion. Prince Andrew’s name is muttered in US courts and terrible crimes described. This side of the pond: a shrug.
One person I know – a historian – darkly muttered that they wonder if Andrew will be alive by the end of the year. There is apparently a season when the establishment have a way of concocting interesting ways to make scandals disappear. It all sounds far-fetched until one remembers how George V was supposedly hurried to meet his maker with a dose of morphine and cocaine so the news could be carried by the morning papers.
Ah, such quaint notions of good and evil we all have, those of us who pay our taxes and feel paranoid wheneve we fill in even the most innocuous government form… Claim a bit of money from the government and the shame in indescribable, whilst MPs take large donations from former Russian oligarchs or put in a claim for every Jaffa Cake consumed in their life. Meanwhile, the men in grey suits go about their business.
In an aside, I notice a new book has come out written by the son of Pablo Escobar. I have no idea how much his story is true but, in the blurb, it mentiones that “it becomes apparent that the British government is working covertly with the gangster in an attempt to control the money laundering and drug trades.” I read that and muttered a WTF. Good marketing or a reality I didn’t know about?
I mean: WTF?
But moving on in this slightly rambling entry for today…
There was a time when it was assumed that, irrespective of their broader ambitions, a government would work for the public good. I’m not so sure when we have people arguing that the economy comes before the people. I notice that Michal Gove’s wife, Sarah Vine, tweeted something along those lines over the weekend: that she didn’t expect anybody to sacrifice the economy just to save her should she contract COVID-19. The obvious answer to that is that nobody would sacrifice the economy just to save her. We might, however, accept damage to the economy to stop a hundred thousand people dying.
So, we have eventually reached this stage. How much is a life worth? I’m sure there are people who spend their days making these calculations, which probably works out as some value slightly above the average wage. There are certain people who greet this news with a quiet satisfaction. I’ve met the type. They’re the type who spit on compassion for as long as they don’t need others to feel it towards them. I’ve worked with people, in good jobs, who didn’t believe in the welfare state until they lost their jobs and needed the welfare state. They are the types quite capable of reducing morality to a figure on a piece of paper.
They might have an argument except making the argument they lose a little bit of what it is to be human. But then, I guess, I’m shifting from my usual cold rationalism to something like religion. “What it is to be human”. Next, I guess, I’ll be thinking about a soul.
Or perhaps not.
There are good rational arguments to back this up; arguments that set ethics inside an evolutionary frame. Valuing life – and by that I mean all life – works to our advantage eventually, though perhaps there are contexts when the opposite is true, when the tribe succeeds by having a Spartan attitude to life and death. It makes no odds. Inside this frame, most people feel that there’s something morally wrong about putting a price of life. It might well be another of those quaint notions we hold onto but, damn it, we should probably hold onto it.
The rate we’re going, it will be the last illusion we’re left with once the bureaucrats have taken the rest.