Friday, 9 February 2007

Empowering ourselves

“The only thing we have to fear is fear itself”


First Inaugural Address, 1933

Having mentioned the dread word fear, the best thing to do is to grasp the nettle and exorcise the spectral foe. Because, quite apart from our own personal private fears, this opening decade of the 21st century is a time of deep and widespread public fear, with the prospect of even greater fears ahead. It is these fears which are muddling our thinking, paralyzing our action, and making us vulnerable to our enemies. [By “we” I mean the West and what is left of its Enlightenment heritage.]

Before 11th September 2001 we may have been living in a fools’ paradise of complacency, but since then we have lived in a nightmare of exaggerated apprehension. The fears of our leaders have led them into blind alleys of self-destructive, misguided action and they have stoked up our fears to bolster their own and to impose hitherto unthought-of curbs upon our civil liberties under the pretext of preserving our “free way of life”. Their mental confusion has been compounded by their moral bankruptcy. Consequently we, the people, are increasingly resentful and bewildered as policies which many of us predicted would only make matters worse have done exactly that and the perpetrators remain largely in a state of self-denial while the rest of the politically aware classes shift uncomfortably and too dumbly in their seats.

Where is the latter day Cromwell to tell our clapped-out promoters of the asinine ‘war on terror’ “you have sat too long here for any good you have been doing. Depart, I say, and let us have done with you. In the name of God, go!” Where are the politically passionate pens of a George Orwell or a Victor Gollancz to protest at the incompetence and – even worse – the immorality being committed in our name? Where is the latter-day Winston Churchill whose rallying cry we desperately need to spell out the true perils we face, as opposed to the bogus ones touted by the purblind pygmies in office, and to lead an effective onslaught against them?

It is the absence of common sense that is so depressing, and indeed frightening. Who would have thought that in this day and age, reams of newsprint and screen space would be devoted to solemnly debating the finer points of Islamic theology and agonising over how best to defer to the sensibilities of religious believers of various stripes who increasingly blatantly seek to bend the rest of us to their will? Having survived long drawn out bombing campaigns by Irish terrorists without any significant infringements of our civil liberties being imposed or even proposed, all of a sudden we find that after a few nasty incidents involving a handful of fanatical young men, centuries-old freedoms we have always taken for granted are tampered with or entirely removed. It is no wonder that we are increasingly afraid.

In my recollection of being a teenager during Britain’s darkest hour – 1940 – the British people were apprehensive, but not afraid. We knew that we had our backs against the wall and, for a time at least, anticipated a German invasion as highly likely. We endured more than a year of heavy ‘blitz’ bombings which killed many thousands of civilians. But never do I recall anyone being ‘afraid’ in a cowardly or defeatist sense. On the contrary, the nation was mobilised into unified defiance and well-targetted action by a determined and realistic leadership – something that is sadly lacking now.

They say that people get the governments and leaders they deserve. Maybe the Western democracies have become too soft and self-indulgent during the last quarter of the 20th century. But I really can’t think what we have done to deserve the dismally mediocre leaders we are saddled with today. It is their mediocrity which is more frightening even than their mendacity. Only by focussing our own understandable fears and anger much more closely onto achievable targets for change within our own societies will we begin to emerge from the gloomy tunnel of bewilderment and indecision that surrounds us. We must have the wisdom to know what is possible, and the courage to achieve change. It is time to empower ourselves, and to act. It is time for a new people’s politics.


Jose said...

You are pampering us with your articles, Anticant.

You have backed this one with a string of truths which we should consider in depth and act consequently.

The "Noble Lie" advocated by Leo Strauss is to blame for everything that is happening nowadays from the 9/11 attacks through the running up to and the invasion of and post-invasion in Iraq and similar conflicts around the world. When we are informed of any of these conflicts those who inform always try to instill fear into us. Contradictory news are also a mechanism to enhance that fear, and the weapons those who have brewed those lies are mediocre politicians as you rightly say.

Is it cowardice that we are led to? Where is that bravery that so much men and women of olden times boasted?

Have we been reduced to mere "slaves" of the news which have been proved to be as powerful and dangerous as any lethal weapon?

Indeed it is time for action.

anticant said...

I know that Strauss is one of the neo-Cons' founding fathers, but it is surely an exaggeration to say that his doctrines are to blame for 'everything' that is happening nowadays. These self-styled opinion-formers, academic gurus and their little cliques do have too much - and sometimes sinister - influence on policy, but it is surely up to us, the people at large, to deny them the satisfaction of leading us like sheep to the killing-fields they desire.

I foresee the Internet and blogging playing an increasingly powerful role in redressing the balance against these manipulative minorities as more and more of us make OUR voices heard.

Jose said...

Yes, I know it could be an exaggeration, but don't you find at the least curious that some of the most important neo-cons have been disciples of Strauss's?

One other aspect of his political advices is fear, the dominance of people by fear.

anticant said...

He's obviously got a lot of disciples in Islam too!