Archive for the ‘South of The Border Documentary’ Category


August 25, 2010 7 comments

I saw a government minister today on the news.  He was defending something that I really think is truly unethical. And what’s worse, he was defending it in a completely unethical way.  Rather than being honest, which I would say generally is an ethical way to behave, he lied.  But furthermore, he actually believed his own lies. He was arguing that an institute of fiscal studies report, which shows that the new government’s first budget will hit the poorest hardest, was wrong.  They got it wrong.  ‘but’ Jon Snow says, ‘we work with the IFS regularly and they never get it wrong.’ ‘oh well, they didn’t look at the whole picture’ he says.  And then goes on to tell an incredulous Jon S how the budget isn’t hurting the poorest people in this country by cutting their tax relief, their benefits, and so on. The IFS says the budget is regressive on almost every fair measure.

No wonder Nick Clegg is looking so bemused.  He, just like the minister Jon S interviewed, believes the lie too.  He has made himself believe it because he has convinced himself he has too much to lose.

In an interview with Channel 4 Clegg said 
”That [the budget] is a plan for real fairness, that is progressive and I think that is a richer understanding of what fairness is about than a single snapshot, that doesn’t – that simply doesn’t – provide the full picture of what we’re trying to do over the coming months and years.”

But why lie? Because being honest would be admitting that the whole project of this government an attempt to be even more radical than Thatcher ever dared to be.

But why not just say that they want to be radical in the way that they really are being radical?  I suppose they are afraid that voters will be disgusted.  I don’t know, because I really think most people don’t care that their society is being undermined right in front of them.  We are all too medicated and self-obsessed to care.  But when we do care it will be too late.  I really wonder how Clegg sleeps at night.

The Prime Minister calls the coalition programme ‘a radical policy programme’. Francis Maude spells it out nicely:

The Economist calls the UK ‘The West’s test tube’, i.e. where we go, other countries may have to follow. We are an experiment, to see how far a government can go in ‘rolling back the frontiers of the state’.

Cuts Cuts Cuts!  Cut the public sector!  Get rid of waste!  Stop those workshy poor people from exploiting the system!  The state MUST shrink! It is going to be tough, they always say, it’s going to hurt, but it will be good for us, and it’s the only way.  Things can’t go on like this! Etc, etc.  How many times has Clegg looked at us, the people who voted him into power (well I didn’t vote for him, but you know what I mean) and told us that it is going to be tough, that it will hurt?  Many times.  As for Cameron, he doesn’t care.  He’s loaded. The economic cutbacks will never hurt them.

Of course, the state must shrink because the economic system in which we live, capitalism, requires it to shrink in order that it can have free reign.  The state protects people from the worst excesses of capitalism.

But the argument has been, from the 18th Century onwards, the market is best left alone to do what it needs to do.  The market, if it is free enough, will raise people out of poverty.  It will create wealth!  I really am no economist, but this sounds rather ropey to me.  Marx was one of the first people to spot this ridiculous lie – ‘the market’ is not some extra-human entity with a life of it’s own, it arises from human action, or as Marx would say, production.  Experiments in minimising the state and allowing capitalism to do it’s thing unfettered have not gone that well.  Russia in the 90s.  Iraq. Thatcherite Britain in the 80s.  Horrific.  Something died in this country in the 80s.  A sense of community and solidarity.  As certain industries were killed off, so were communities which still suffer from the excesses of Thatcher’s ideological push to the golden future of a truly free market.   I would say that we are very lucky in this country to have a wonderful welfare system, NHS, free education system, and all the rest of it.  I do not want Mr Cameron et al getting their way and going further than Thatcher.  I will fight them and I think you should do too.

of course Cameron the multi millionaire won’t suffer as the state shrinks.  It’s the poorest who suffer and eventually it will be everyone and this is going to happen right here and now, if we let it.

Interestingly, a condition of autism is that one is unable to sympathise with others.  Have a look at this:

Now I am not saying that autistic people are fascists as clearly they are not, but I find it fascinating that it is being claimed Keith Joseph, who helped Thatcher to normalise the socially counterintuitive, was autistic.

Anyway so this minister today on the news also believed his own lies because if he really honestly stopped lying, his job, his nice comfortable existence, his mortgage, his future would be at risk.  GOD FORBID! (What’s God? I hear some of you scream…). He has only just got his job.  He can’t lose it all now.  He and Clegg have too much to lose so they lie to us and to themselves.

The philosopher jean Paul Sartre calls this sort of behaviour ‘bad faith’.

Some people lie to themselves because if they stop lying, the truth is far too terrible to face.

Some people are able to make themselves feel better by putting out a press release that they are a great philanthropist and the money they make from the book they have written (so buy it, it’s going to a good cause) will help the people who are suffering directly because of something they have done.  Blair’s whole life is a masterclass in bad faith.  He really believes his own lies.  His very big lie to himself had rather public consequences and countless people suffered and died.  I might send him Being & Nothingness by Sartre.  But he would say ‘oh how interesting.  My faith in God helps me to make the right choices.  It sets me free’.

Sartre’s philosophy is known as Existentialism.  Essentially it criticises the common idea that human beings have an ‘essence’ (some people call it a soul) that is eternal and fixed.  This understanding of human beings implies that the way we live is in some way or other pre-determined, because we have an essence, a soul or a personality even that is fixed and describes how we “really are”.  Existentialists argue that there is no eternal and pre-existing essence in human beings.  What comes first is human physical existence (this reflects Nietzsche’s ideas)  Their mantra is existence precedes essence.  Because human physical existence precedes essence, our being, what we are, can be determined in whatever way we like, in other words we can create our lives and live them however we want to. Every human being has the responsibility to chose to live the most free life they possibly can.  This idea is at the heart of existentialist ethics. Existentialists think living like this is authentic or real. It is real, because it is chosen by the individual.  This type of life is a burden because in a way it is easier to blame the bad things that happen to you on your circumstances or other people.  But you can’t do this if you are an existentialist, you have to make choices which reflect the idea that you want to live as authentically, as possible. Authentic existence concerns liberty rather than happiness.  Often happiness will follow from free choice, but often it won’t.  You might have to make a decision which actually makes you unhappy, but as long as it is authentic and makes you free, that is acceptable.  Sartre wrote a lot about the dilemmas existentialism brings. For example, we choose to act liberate ourselves.  This might not make us happier, but it will make us freer.  Bad faith is a concept Sartre use to explain when we don’t choose to act in a way that will make us freer.  The classic example of this is lying to oneself.

If only the government were honest with us.  They would probably still be as popular as they are now.  It’s tragic.  But things can be different.  Go and see this – it will show you how.