Monday, 13 October 2008

If at first you don't succeed

History is a funny old thing. Or not as the case may be. But with history it is possible to take yours eyes off the present.
We are currently so obsessed with 1929 and the depression that followed that we are in danger of missing impact of the depression.
There are two major government initiatives that must be stopped. Firstly the attempt to alter the rules of detention so that someone can be detained for up to 42 days without charge. The second is the expensive farrago of the identity card scheme. I abhor these ideas without reservation.
I abhor them because of the manner in which the whole nature of innocent until proven guilty is challenged by them. I abhor the necessity to collect information to which the government in not entitled. But I fear what could happen should the benign, paternal nature of modern government be replaced by something more repressive or authoritarian.
It couldn't happen here? Could it? Britain escaped fascism in the 1930s and has, whatever anyone may tell you, avoided extremes of governments. Although the Thatcher government seems to have been located on the extremity of British politics, its driven ideology has, until the last two weeks, become the norm. From 1979 until 2008 the centre of British politics shifted so that monetarist, decentralised, deregulated economics has been the accepted way for the economy to be run. Want to do it differently? Look at the States where anyone who disagrees with this philosophy is automatically a dangerous liberal or even a socialist (although let's face, those are tags used without any understanding of what they actually mean).
What would it take for our system to collapse? A sustained economic crisis perhaps? A collapse in faith in politicians? A charismatic figure to draw attention away from the issues and create folk devils to feed on an irrational hatred? Well, two out of the three are in place. Thank god for the lack of charisma in this country.
But who might these folk devils be? Well, Facebook groups suggesting that if people don't like it they should return home, do not help. Even if some of the comments may be attempts at humour, these groups do more damage than the Daily Mail ever could. By normalising these opinions it becomes easier for them to be expressed publicly in a manner which can become accepted.
The underlying current is that someone must be blamed. We are not conditioned to be able to challenge those who may actually be responsible. We ought to be attacking the monsters who have deregulated everything. We ought to be attacking upwards. As usual we are attacking downwards.
So, it couldn't happen here could it?