No surprises and surprises are so much fun with gifts. But why is this ‘gift’, the human emotion of guilt, important to our politics?
The wealth of the Victorian Age facilitated a number of developments. Not only were there vast amounts of money sloshing about, earned from the colonies and industry, but also the infrastructure and the engineering of Great Britain was blossoming and the population was going through the roof. As money begets money, everything in Victorian Britain was on overdrive.
‘Courage drives liberty and liberty drives abundance.’
Affluence allowed the middle classes to reflect. They had the wealth and resources to be virtuous, commensurate with the religious fervour of the day. To be fair, the social inequalities and pressures, the growth in industry and population and the extremes of wealth and poverty, all set the scene. The rationalism of the Georgian period had given way to romanticism and the political and social reforms that ensued had some dangerous flaws in them. With the changes taking place in a relatively short period, mistakes were inevitable. There was an air of charity and philanthropy; guilt became a virtue.
A legacy does not have to be benign and of all the inherited benefits of the Victorian Age one of the most influential was the ‘Gift of Guilt.’
But guilt is a burden and those with perceived guilt want to offload their burden on others. It is always the way. Are we guilty of racism, xenophobia, homophobia, Islamophobia, fascism and colonialism? Is it the caller who has the problem and the responder who picks up the tab? Guilt, the destroyer of lives, the cross to bear; an illness that is little understood and difficult to resist.
Are we racist if we celebrate our difference, our diversity? Are we being mistaken for thinking we are special, or celebrating our successes? Have the ‘Socialists’ made a mistake of classification or interpretation? Or do they just want to share their perceived guilt?
Karl Marx’s ideals produced a schism between the classes. That changed the benevolent development of social reform into a class struggle that spawned more suffering than anyone could possibly have imagined. Socialism set man against man, overshadowing the work and ideas of many great social reformers in their efforts to improve understanding, humanity, love and liberty.
With class struggles, all were brought down to the lowest denominator with, of course, the exception of those who were more equal than the others.
Many groups bought into this new social thinking. Rooted in religion, they were well equipped with guilt to fight this new war that had to be fought. From this middle class, intellectual, self-righteous group was formed the Fabian Society. Along with the Social Democratic Federation, a Marxist group, the Fabians were a founding organisation of the present Labour Party.
This faulty gene, this intellectual flu, had developed into a cancer.
‘Abundance gives way to complacency and selfishness.’
Complacency also gave way to extreme intellectual arrogance. The idea that virtue can be imposed only served to demonstrate the patronising control of the ‘working class’ by their new leaders. The questions then to be asked are what is virtuous and where are they leading us? To exorcise their guilt they have created victims of the working classes and driven a wedge between groups in society.
We have all struggled to understand the irreconcilable differences between left and right. In the end, both wings of politics want to use common man; one to enslave with imposed virtues, the other to exploit for self-interest and aggrandizement. Perhaps the fork in the road was the split between social and classical liberalism? Perhaps it was the difference between co-operative federalism and co-operative individualism? In the end it came down to which political party could offer the most to the newly franchised electorate and democracy suffered.
‘Complacency gives way to dependency.’
This is where we are again. The Conservatives are again offering everything to everyone. Will it be enough? Have we all had enough?
A simple test for altruistic motives and courage is to question their commitments. Will they risk their power base by introducing a fairer electoral system? Will they have a national discussion on AGW and whether CO2 is truly a pollutant or a plant food? Will they devolve power from Westminster to the ‘regions’ and the ‘communities’?
Will they go back to that fork in the road and choose classical liberalism and co-operative individualism?
These are the things we need to advance our society, and these are the places the old two party system will not go. We need change and anything else is a prevarication and a procrastination.
To have peace and solitude from the mad carousel of life, the claustrophobic crunching of society. The pressures, stresses, demands and responsibilities.
Sifting through the small pieces of fine paper, the serrated edges, the pastel colours, the denominations, faces of long gone dignitaries from places far away. Places with different cultures, different languages teasing the imagination while the faces stare with a silent call of meaning that will never be answered. Then a stamp would be chosen, carefully selected for sticking in ‘the book’. The philatelist hypnotised by the occupational escapism. The illusion that nothing else matters.
The village cricket match on a hot summer afternoon. The hum of the sun punctuated by the crack of leather on willow. The dog that barks in the stillness of evening. A sharp resonant sound somehow in tune with the solitude, the air, and the dreamy space between day and night.
Chants can be like that when a caller fills the void with an indomitable message and the group response comes back. A primeval and collective identity carries the responders beyond pain and rational thinking. Gregorian, gospel, sporting, military and group suffering, all used this idiosyncrasy of the human condition.
But what if the message gets corrupted?
The sky is red as the sun steps down and night prepares to move in.