...a blog by Richard Flowers

Friday, August 14, 2009

Day 3148: Pillock's Progress aka Mandy v Gideon round deux


This week Master Gideon dabbled with a new philosophy: he said that the Conservatories are the "progressive party" now.

"Progressive" means "wanting things to CHANGE", but I'm sorry, Mr Oboe, just wanting "a change from the current lot" doesn't really count.

"Progressive" is the OPPOSITE of "conservative", wanting things to stay as they ARE or HOW THEY USED TO BE.

So "Progressive Conservatives" OUGHT to be the very definition of an OXYMORON. An OXYMORON is, of course, an IDIOT from one of THOSE universities. Which, come to think of it, ought to be the very definition of Master Gideon…

In POLITICS "progressive" usually means wanting the GOVERNMENT to effect change while "conservative" means wanting the Government to impede or reverse change.

Look how much of the LANGUAGE of Conservatories harks BACKWARDS to some (usually-imaginary) Golden Age, whether it's the 'Fifties (before all that "permissiveness"), or the Age of Empire (before all that "European Union") or from "bring back Matron" to good old Victorian Values.

The notion that Master Gideon and the Conservatories are "conservative" goes back even further to the idea of what they are FOR, namely: to preserve, defend, entrench and generally stop anyone else getting their hands on the POWER and PRIVILEGE of those who are already very, very RICH, starting with the King (specifically Charles II).

Bringing this right up to date, Master Gideon's ONLY tax policy (that we know of) is the tax cut for dead millionaires. This is "preserving the privilege of the already-haves 101" and people are QUITE RIGHT to call him on it.

So far so very mildly-amusing: look how the young Oboe makes a fool of himself AGAIN.

But there is clearly something about Master Gideon that brings Lord Mandelmort out of the woodwork; he just can't help rising to the bait. And so it was this week, as the First Prince of Darkness felt compelled to respond in the Grauniad.

"Crass political cross-dressing", he called it – and remember, Lord Mandelmort has seen Master Oboe in the cabaret on board Russian Billionaire Oleg Deeply-Suspect's yacht.

Lord Mandelmort and Master Gideon.

You know that bit in King Kong, where the giant ape fights a T-Rex? Sinister pre-historic reptile versus heroic gorilla? This isn't like that at all.

It's more like the bit in Jurassic Park where the T-Rex finds the rubbishy lawyer quivering on the loo and swallows him whole.

(Credit, in passing, to Mr Evan Davis of the The Today Programme, for trying gamely to get Lord Mandy to answer the question during their interview on Wednesday. Unlike some of his co-presenters, Mr Evan was not trying to get his interviewee to say some "thing that he wanted them to say" – presumably to then spring an "ah ha!" gotcha – but instead he had a genuine question and wanted a proper answer. And since the question was "now that you've got us a trillion pounds in debt, how are Hard Labour going to pay it off?", which is quite a GOOD question, it was certainly one deserving of an answer. Not that he got one. Lord Mandy is just as frustrating to interview as Master Oboe, only much, much cleverer at not looking like a total spork.)

But just how "progressive" are Hard Labour, anyway? Saying that they've poured billions into schools and the National Health Service isn't actually "progressive": we HAD those things under Queen Maggie too. Hard Labour is just doing the same but paying for it.

So what have they actually CHANGED?

Well in the PLUS column, there has been genuine devolution to the Scottish Parliament, Welsh Assembly and power-sharing executive in Northern Ireland. We've had the Human Rights Act, which more people ought to say is a GOOD thing. At the point of a European Union gun we've had some equal rights for gay daddies.

But, in the MINUS column, we've had special rights for RELIGIONS and a huge increase in FAITH schools: that's handing a lot of power BACK to one of the OLDEST PRIVILEGES in town, divine right and never mind the king!

The power of a TINY minority in the PRESS, in particular the Emperor of the Airwaves, Mr Roger Stavro Moredick, has been amplified more than ever before, and the ITV companies have been allowed to merge Shoggoth-like into a single massive loss-making entity, while the only institution standing between us and the full Faux News – the BBC, yes I get the irony – gets SPANKED at every opportunity.

We've seen a freezing of social mobility thanks to an education policy biased to the privileged and a yanking up of the ladder after all those cabinet ministers who benefitted from a free university place.

We've seen some very, very highly overpaid bankers have their jobs saved at the cost of trillions of pounds, and we've seen some very, very averagely paid workers made redundant rather than save their electric van plant or windmill factory.

And by far the BIGGEST change they've effected, from section 44 of the Terrorism Act to the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act and all the rest, is a MASSIVE entrenchment of the powers of the state to spy on, arrest, abuse and generally intimidate its citizens. That's a really, REALLY big "preserving powers of the already powerful".

Oh, and of course we fought an illegal war that reduced a Middle Eastern country to the Stone Age at the whim of a pampered billionaire playboy who just happened to have bought and cheated his way into the Presidency of the richest nation on the face of the Earth. Well done on sticking to the progressive principles there, boys.

The old left-right axis has always been about "privileges for the privileged". The "right" believe that the privileged few who control the usually-inherited wealth know best and should be in charge. The "left" believe that the privileged few who control the State's central committee know best and should be in charge…

…which – daytime TV link – reminds me, Lawrence Miles (read it before he deletes it) has an actually-positive review of the recent series of Torchwood, though in his usual style he finds a way to be abrasively confrontational about saying so.

However, in the middle he goes into a MIND-SHATTERINGLY ill-informed rant about what he perceives as the "evils of Liberalism"©theLarryverse:
"…there's a difference between "left-wing" and "liberal". To be a liberal means to believe that tolerance is good and global warming is bad, but also to believe that you can save the world simply by not using the word "poof". S/he may have good intentions, but doesn't seem to appreciate that all the things s/he considers to be civilised - democracy, universal suffrage, the right to exist without having the shit kicked out of you for having long hair or skin that's a bit on the dark side - were achieved through the effort of rather more pro-active people, who fought and occasionally died in order to create a less appalling version of humanity. To be a liberal means to shield yourself from the full horror of your society, to have a veneer of civic responsibility while still approving of a system that's wholly founded on exploitation. Tennant-era Doctor Who is liberal."
It's difficult to grasp how someone normally so well-informed and erudite can be so gob-smackingly wide of the mark here.

Yes, there IS a difference between "left-wing" and "liberal", it's just that you have absolutely no idea what it is, or indeed what you are talking about or, for that matter, the history of the country you are living in.

"Left wing" means a belief that capital should be controlled by a (presumed benign) central state. "Liberal" means a rejection of arbitrary authority, whether based on heredity, religious mandate, inherited wealth, or "happening to be in government".

Scary Charlotte (now with even scarier kittens!) could NEVER be described as "left-wing", but she is CLEARLY a Liberal.

But to fisk this clause by clause:

"to believe that you can save the world simply by not using the word "poof". "

– that would be "political correctness" a not-actually-bad notion (assuming such a thing was not wholly made up by the Hate Mail just so that people could claim "it's political correctness gone mad") that being POLITE to people would result in a "less appalling version of humanity", but definitely a "leftist" notion rooted mainly the alternative comedy of the early 'Eighties (who, ironically, felt that racism was beyond the, pardon me, pale and so had to make jokes about homosexuality instead – if you don't believe me, try watching the terribly "right on" first episode of "Black Adder II" again).

"democracy, universal suffrage, the right to exist etc, etc, unlimited rice-pudding…"

– well bless my muffins, who was it who brought in all those great Reform Acts in the nineteenth century? Who campaigned for religious tolerance for Catholics and Jews? Who invented the pension? Who wrote the People's Budget? Who came up with the idea of the NHS?

And if it comes to "fighting and dying" for a better kind of humans you can only possibly mean World War Part Two, and frankly that was ALL of us in it together, Liberal, Conservatory, Labour, probably not Sir Oswald's lot, I certainly don't recall that War being a "leftists only" affair.

Or perhaps you think that the Marches against Fascism in the East End were only leftists? That the campaign against Apartheid wasn't led by the Young Liberals (yes, even Mr Vain)? That the Stonewall Riots were fought by Marxists and not a bunch of drag queens?

Basically HOW DARE YOU, how dare you deny the others who fight and die and then condemn them because you claim they weren't there. They were there. And you were not.

"To be a liberal means to shield yourself from the full horror of your society, to have a veneer of civic responsibility while still approving of a system that's wholly founded on exploitation"

– whereas to be a "leftist" is to claim credit for all the advances ever made while denying any responsibility for the actions of your party, the Labour Party, and whine on the sidelines doing nothing, claiming that you are being a realist about the system while still fully taking advantage of it. It is to be a hypocrite.

All of us in this country are part of the "system" that at least in part contributes to exploitation in other countries. It's not just shopping at Primark – how easy it is to scorn the poor in this country for their impact on the far more poor abroad – your bank, your telephone company, your local council, any of them may have shifted call centres or supply offices overseas to take advantage of cheaper labour. The only people who can truly afford to step out of "the system", grow their own food, make their own clothes, generate their own electricity for the computer on which they post their blogs (and by the way, do you refine your own oil to make the plastic and semi-conductor components?) the only people who can do that are the independently wealthy – i.e. the ones who inherited a fortune and are therefore screwing the rest of us from birth.

Seriously, which philosophy will actually one day help people out of Third World poverty? "Leftist" "don't you worry your pretty little head about it, the State knows best" or Liberal free trade and opportunity? Because every single example everywhere of countries escaping poverty is thanks to Free Trade and not State Intervention.

"Tennant-era Doctor Who is liberal."

– this is supposed to be an insult???

News for you, Larry: HARTNELL era Doctor Who is Liberal: the Sensorites are people, the Rills are the nice ones (crass as that message is), religious intolerance leads to "The Massacre"; Troughton Era Doctor Who is Liberal: "why?" is the unanswerable question for Daleks; Pertwee-era – yes, Lord help us, even the Twepee Era is Liberal: green scaly people are people too; the Baker-era is Liberal; the Davison-era, Liberal; the Baker, McCoy, McGann and Eccleston-era Doctor Who IS ALL Liberal.

You cannot get away from it: the series is ABOUT a person who opposes the arbitrary power of bullies.

He's not ever a "leftist": he doesn't believe in the centralised state. He's not a Conservatory: he RAN AWAY FROM traditional inherited power. Time and time again he is FOR the individual, for science and discovery, for freedom. He's the OPPOSITE of the DALEKS for fluffy's sake. DOCTOR WHO IS A LIBERAL.

Hang on, Larry's got a caveat:

"…much of the previous paragraph was informed by various encounters with Doctor Who authors over the years. Most particularly, an argument with Paul Cornell - Grand Poobah of Liberals and unapologetic Blairite…"

Sorry? You think supporting New Labour makes you a LIBERAL???????????

This can only be the cognitive dissonance speaking: "I am a leftist. Leftist must be GOOD. Labour is EVIL. Labour cannot be leftist. DOESNOTCOMPUTE DOESNOTCOMPUTE Must… pick… term… at… random… Labour are Liberals. Ahhhhhh, brain feel better now."

Words MEAN things, and being in denial about the Labour Party being "of the left" does not give you an excuse to go all Humpty Dumpty on us.

Which, to cut a long story short, brings me back to Master Gideon.

Who would have expected the Shadow Tuck Shop Monitor and the author of "Alien Bodies" to have anything in common, and yet here they both are redefining away to let them feel good about themselves.

"The very powerful and the very stupid have one thing in common. They change the facts to fit their opinions."

That's a quote from Doctor Who. Being a Liberal.

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Andrew Hickey said...

I think, sadly, that Miles, whose writing I usually admire enormously, is using liberal in the USian sense of the word, in much the same way that, say, 'Liberal' Conspiracy do, to mean voters for the Labour Party, Guardian readers, etc.

If you map 'liberal' in his post to that meaning, and 'left-wing' to 'progressive' (whether leftist or liberal), he's talking a reasonable amount of sense (for the most part, with all caveats duly noted). He just seems to have his definitions all to cock. Unfortunately, that definition of 'liberal' seems in quite common currency these days...

Ian said...

Thank you. That is exactly the part of Lawrence Miles's post that really irritated me. You have refuted his argument point for point. What I found laughable was that somehow we should all be grateful for the great sacrifices the 'idealists'(read 'leftists?') fought and died for in the sixties. What exactly would that be then? The creation of the Open University presumably?