We’ve had the concept of joined-up government before. As often is (sadly) the case, professional practitioners of politics tend to view the world via the tools they use – in this case, governance – to exert their control over what happens.
It’s a natural human instinct, I suppose.
Another example comes to mind this morning. Here in the Guardian today, we continue in our finger-in-the-dam way of approaching latterday society’s problems: piecemeal measures of a repressing nature which are more likely to generalise a paucity of ideas than have a useful impact on serious issues (the bold is mine):
The former Tory cabinet minister Caroline Spelman has called for the UK to consider criminalising the purchase of sex and urged more male politicians to enter a public debate about the reform of prostitution laws.
Spelman, who as environment secretary from 2010 to 2012 was one of David Cameron’s few senior female ministers, said she supported the Nordic model, named after the system in Sweden, Iceland and Norway, which makes it a crime to buy, but not sell, sexual services.
So why do I see this as a finger-in-the-dam kind of approach? Because it would be just as easy to make it possible for unwilling sex-workers to have a choice in the matter of whether they continued to ply their trade or not by focussing on the kind of wider employment policies that allowed for empowered workforces to work with dignity and for a sustainable remuneration, as it would be to continue criminalising the world of sex in the way that Spelman suggests.
Wider employment policies which, quite incidentally, Spelman’s own political grouping are manifestly not in favour of. Things ranging from the living wage to social security nets to decent publicly-funded healthcare to competent and humane legal-aid systems are all out of the frame as far as this current crop of Tories is concerned.
Wilder solutions can be found in the following link, where I suggested quite a while ago that sex workers in an encroaching virtual age be retrained in the ins and outs of a renewing and attitude-modulating CGI porn, designed to take such workers off dangerous streets at the same time as remaking clients’ expectations of what is acceptable and what is not:
A suggestion then. Not just a rant. Maybe it’s time for a new kind of content. Given that the instinct for sex is about as old as Adam and Eve’s adult teeth, has anyone considered CGI porn as a wider solution to sexual exploitation – and its corresponding abuse of power – which so many people currently find themselves affected by?
How would this work? Groups of existing sex workers could form officially-sanctioned cooperatives with the right to apply for government-funded training courses. These courses would serve to train them up in computer-generated film-making. There would, of course, be strict control over the content – a kind of Hays Code for our time. Just because the content was computer-generated wouldn’t give the creators the right to reproduce and duplicate in the virtual world the kind of abusive relationships we were aiming to eliminate in real life.
In such a way, the whole balance of power would be altered. Sex workers could find a gainful living as unexploited, and unexploiting, generators of porn; porn users would be safely educated away from the violent stuff through a plentiful, cheap and consistently benign exposure to non-violent (perhaps even government-subsidised) narrative; and, most importantly, the Internet could then be properly policed as per the canons of the code in question.
Yes. I know. The libertarian in me finds my own idea quite resistible. But on one thing Spelman is right: the issue is too big for us to (pardon the expression) pussy-foot around it for any longer. And whilst other solutions of an Internet-filter nature are being used, leading to widespread and often indiscriminate blocking of websites and content undeserving by any criteria of such censorship, we really do need to explore other ways of policing the crazier reaches of our societies without undermining everyone else’s fundamental rights of free expression and communication: without undermining, in fact, what makes living in liberal democracy worthwhile.
Not a politics of joined-up government, then: rather, even more profoundly, a politics of joined-up humanity.
Don’t you think?