Thursday, June 12, 2008

From There To Here - A Guide To Self-Loathing In Three Easy Steps

Walking up Waterloo Place in the city centre at five to seven yesterday morning, I was surprised and delighted to see a fox emerge from the old graveyard, sit down right in front of me, then trot off round the corner quite the thing.

It was a mangy, matted looking animal, likely a walking flea circus, but when I coupled its unexpected appearance with events later that day, it suddenly occurred to me - those pissed-off fox-hunting toffs really were right, weren't they?

Not right as in Isn't ripping animals to bits for a laugh fun? but right as in Jesus, this crop of politicians really are a horrible shower, aren't they?

Because we didn't just wind up with a wildly unpopular government that can pass astonishingly authoritarian legislation just for the hell of it, in the face of opposition and utter confusion from those it was intended to benefit, with the enthusiastic support of the public. It's not as if we woke up one morning and suddenly found we were being ruled by monomaniacal power junkies or that all of us, to some extent, had lost our damn minds with fear of neds, or terrorists or some other threat to the nation.

Lots of people hated fox hunting for its cruelty and barbarism; for its highly organised infliction of fear, pain and death on defenseless animals for entertainment. Not me, though - I wanted the government to ban it because it would really annoy wealthy poshoes, a desirable end in itself. My only objection was that it wouldn't lead to a screaming pack of Nigels, Tamaras and Nathans being hunted through the woods by baying hounds.

All those arguments the countryside campaigners deployed... That the ban was an illegitimate attack on freedom, that it played on popular prejudices, they were all correct and I knew it at the time and cared not a jot. Fuck 'em, I thought, let them be on the receiving end for a change. Even now I find it hard to say anything nice about them, the braying, bloodthirsty twats that they are.

It's clear now that the Labour government's approach to almost all issues has been precisely the same, whether it's benefit fraud or antisocial behaviour, terrorism or smoking in public places... Matters trifling, middling or massive, the response was identical. Just point out some bastards who everyone can agree are getting up to no good and taking the piss, frame it in the nastiest way possible to get us on board, then pass some wildly disproportionate legislation granting themselves executive power to do whatever they like.

And we fall for it, every time, because we all know it's true, don't we? The government, the press, they never stop telling us how every individual is hard-working, honest and plays by the rules, so everybody knows that whatever out-group is under discussion are chancers on the make. Why, anyone who would hinder the government doing whatever it takes to put a stop to it and send a message to those who don't respect our way of life is obviously out of touch.

Me, I was late in clocking the utter vacuity at the heart of the New Labour project - it actually took a bullshit war for me to realise that there was nothing there except for maniacal acquisition of power for its own sake. Once you'd made that leap, though, it was obvious in just about all the party's actions, likely starting with curfews for teenagers back in '98. Such things don't become progressive, desirable or reasonable just because they're proposed by allegedly left wing figures like Gordon Brown.

That's why I'm surprised to see impeccably liberal sites like Pickled Politics and Liberal Conspiracy asking how we wound up with a government that can grant itself the right to lock up whoever it likes, whenever it likes, for as long as it likes, on the flimsiest of pretexts, just to make a point.

I don't need to wonder how it came to this or search around for someone to point the finger at. All I need to do is go through to the bathroom and look in the mirror, and there's the culprit looking right back.

Because if we're honest, it was us - it's our fault. We could've stood up to any of these schemes at any point, cried bullshit the very second that Tony Blair and his pals whipped out the blade and began to saw at the salami, but we didn't.

Well, all I can say is that if we're guilty, we're just going to have to do our time for it. Just don't go looking to David Davis for leniency, because the Tories can interpret opinion polls too, and the polls are saying that when it comes to clamping down on misbehaviour, anything goes and anyone is fair game except for me and my wife.

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