Saturday, August 25, 2007

Upside-down world

The topsy-turvy, upside-down world of the Right continues to spin in its retrograde fashion. The very latest sighting: an article by one Andrew Anthony in The Observer (UK), gleefully pounced upon by Kate McMillan and her winged monkeys over at Small Dead Animals. "It will be a tough read for our friends on the left here," she says. Well, not for me. I found it clinically fascinating.

The article is long, and the book from which the article is distilled is no doubt much longer, so let me home in on one set of examples provided by the author as illustrations of Left-fostered social decline, with accompanying commentary. But, to preface that, readers will note that an almost pathological condition frequently found on the starboard side of the values-spectrum (from which flows the politics) is projection. As I have noted before, not a few conservatives live in a mirror-world in which the Left is racist, the Left is anti-Semitic, women oppress men and Blacks oppress whites and workers oppress bosses--or so they argue. I never thought, however, that I would see the day that selfish individualism was laid at the door of the Left, with the bizarre, almost surrealistically conjoined claim that collectivism, or at least liberalism (not the same thing, of course) is to blame.

Anthony raises a number of terrible incidents in which innocents in the UK have been brutalized and some murdered while onlookers did nothing. But what conclusion does he draw from this? Why, it's multiculturalism, or bleeding-heart sympathy for miscreants, or too much passive reliance on the state, or Black culture (it's hard to know, and in fairness I probably ought to read the book, because the article wanders all over the place and simply fails to cohere).

So here are some of the lessons this disillusioned liberal, who has been mugged by "reality," offers us:

Evidence both statistical and anecdotal suggests that in a 'community of communities' there is not enough social glue to create a sense of shared responsibility. Studies show that bystanders are less likely to come to the aid of someone of a different ethnicity from their own. The girl I saw stabbed was of Asian appearance. Her attackers were Afro-Caribbean. And nearly all the onlookers were, for want of a better phrase, white. Difference is all very well but it is with sameness, a common humanity, that we most pressingly need to reconnect.

And this:

In the 10 years between 1995 and 2005, serious woundings rose by 50 per cent in England and Wales. And it is estimated that up to 70 per cent of violent crime goes unreported.

But when it came down to it, the girl was stabbed because her assailants felt able to do it. The ringleader was inhibited neither by the community nor her peer group. In the first instance, the community turned away, and in the second, her peer group joined in the assault. These were problems of attitude that were not simplistic functions of environment.

In truth, I find it rather hard to argue with Anthony about the underlying social malaise here. Yes, there obviously needs to be a reconnection to a common humanity. Certainly the perpetrators of the crimes he describes were "inhibited neither by the community nor [their] peer group." But why certain conservatives would take comfort in such analysis--check out the SDA thread for the usual smug commentary and belches of self-satisfaction--is a mystery to me.

The author attempts to racialize the incidents he describes, although not all of those incidents appear to be interracial. Such indifference, or fear, in fact, is far from unknown in situations where race cannot be so easily, and conveniently, highlighted. What prevents us from realizing our "common humanity" and showing a little bit of what us leftists like to call "social responsibility?" Actually, the answer is rather simple: a selfish, atomistic individualism, fostered by the far Right, in which the "I'm all right, Jack" attitude is held up as a pristine virtue, and empathy for the less fortunate is seen as a weakness.

Who, for goodness sake, in her put-on, plummy, revoltingly priggish manner of speaking, famously informed us that "There is no such thing as society"? Here's the quote in context:

They are casting their problems at society. And, you know, there's no such thing as society. There are individual men and women and there are families. And no government can do anything except through people, and people must look after themselves first. It is our duty to look after ourselves and then, also, to look after our neighbours.

lease note the time-frame here. The UK, by 1995, has suffered a decade and a half of radically conservative government, and under it the kind of irresponsible nonsense just quoted, spouted forth by Maggie Thatcher and her panting acolytes, and put into policy and practice with a flinty-hearted vengeance. And now, suddenly, we are being told that those who took this guff seriously, who looked out for themselves first, who didn't get involved in matters that did not concern their immediate individual interests, are the bad guys--and it's all the Left's fault?

Here is the comment of a smirking bystander, who had just witnessed the brutalizing of a young girl and done nothing, after the author remonstrated with him:

Don't have a go at me, you pompous prick. Why should I get involved? It had nothing to do with me.

Is there any more fitting apotheosis of Thatcher's dream than that? For indeed it came to pass that Andrew Anthony's dystopic Britain was given its form and substance in the crucible of Thatcher's dog-eat-dog conservatism. It was a Britain where the social was disparaged at every turn, and where crass selfishness was extolled, leaving its festering mark. It is no surprise, then, that even today it is a Britain where society exists, all right, but in a critically weakened state. And Anthony's flailing should, perhaps, be taken as a symptom of just how badly things have gone wrong.

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