The last straw for me in my relationship with the idea and practice of the big state has been today’s announcement that Tories are seriously considering:
[…] making children attend school between 9am and 6pm EVERY DAY for 45 weeks a year.
This would mean:
[…] it would increase the amount of time that children spend at school by two-thirds and dramatically reduce school holidays from 13 weeks a year to just seven.
And would this be for the good of the children? No. Not really. Primarily, it would serve to win an election by offloading responsibility for the policing of youth street-crime onto already burdened education systems and classrooms:
[…] the longer days would prepare kids for the workplace and would slash youth crime – which peaks from 3pm to 6pm – by taking troublemakers off the streets.
No matter that we are supposed to be living in a century where we’re all supposed to learn how to work smarter. Our silly stupid idiotic leaders clearly think longer means better; they’re obviously fascinated with the wrong kind of bodily organ. Talking of which, and over at the professional monetisers of our National Health Service, we have this list of prices for
trafficking with processing our confidential patient data (see page 2 in particular) – already online and already presumably being charged in 2013, even before we were given the opportunity to opt out this January 2014.
So what’s going on here? Couple all the above with the passing of the so-called gagging law and you have the foundations being laid for a reversal of – or at least an attempt to reverse – historical tendency. The 21st century, in the guise of wonderful tech, has brought us to levels of self-learning and self-investigation of our surroundings no other moment in history has enjoyed. If freedom of expression, education and enlightenment could ever characterise our shared civilisation, the 21st century could have been that moment. But forces tied to traditional politics and ways of seeing – political parties, representative democracy, delegated responsibilities etc – are, it would seem to me, making concerted, even deliberate, efforts to ensure that everything and anything we do in civil discourse remains within the context of an all-encompassing state. As I tweeted this morning:
We’re getting to the point where no civil life or experience can take place outside the state’s say-so. A very dangerous path we’re taking.
It doesn’t matter if you’re in Labour or the Tory Party: the important thing is to legislate people into submission. From running all children’s lives to the most detailed degree because some “troublemakers” behave disagreeably to turning all those who would disagree with such ideas into “troublemakers” who need gagging, this is the last-ditched attempt of utterly uncivil governance to overcome the freedoms of a very civil society.
With the excuse that someone is hurt by this or that, the full power of Boris Johnson’s “medieval” Met – the state’s very own evermore politicised police force – is to be brought to bear on everyone without exception. And in this way the state as a construct has rapidly outgrown any reality of social contract to become a cash cow for private industry; a weapon to win elections for political parties; and – ultimately – a King-Canute-like tool to foolishly attempt to hold back a probable tidal wave of 21st century liberties.
Again, as I tweeted recently:
Living in an environment where the default is no longer trust between governed & govt – that’s what’s really going to hurt our society. 😦
And as Dan Hind poetically – and sadly – pointed out yesterday:
Trust and representation have had their chance. Now is the time for suspicion and participation.
(You might, in fact, want to read the piece Dan is highlighting. Well worth a read, too. You can find it here. It describes the necessary and urgent move from definition to action, and even provides a degree of possible process to boot.)
For all the above reasons, and perhaps far more yet for me to discover, the double-edged sword that is the state we see before us, and in the hands of this current political class as it is surely forming, is becoming less and less attractive to me as a way of intelligently organising our masses. Less attractive, mainly because the sword’s edge that falls, falls mainly on the poor; mainly on those already without privilege.
Alternatives, I know of very few. But I tell you one thing. If given the choice tomorrow, I certainly wouldn’t want any more of my children to have to face such a state – to have them go through an education system designed to win elections rather than make them smarter; to have their GP-patient confidentiality snapped and monetised as is apparently already happening; and to have the Boorish Johnsons of this world use terms like “medieval” in tones of reverential respect.
No. This isn’t the state of the sacred social contract which I was forged to believe in and support.
This is something quite different; something quite frightening; something quite unpleasant we have yet to fully comprehend.
And whether we like it or not, whether we can do anything about it or not, my once abiding, sensible and reasoned faith in all you politicians – yes, even the least useful of yous, even the most irritating, even the generally corrupting – is fast losing its substance, its sense, its sensibility.
Know what I mean, anyone? Does anyone know what I mean at all?