Friday, 31 October 2014

Conspiracy? What conspiracy?

If you think there is a conspiracy to prevent your voice being heard, it is important to remember one thing: there might not be.

If you really think there is one, you should do all you can to smash it. But first check and double check that the conspiracy definitely exists. There are few surer ways of looking silly than trying to smash something which isn’t there.

Some conspiracies do exist, of course, including some very unlikely ones. For many centuries, half of the human race were complicit in ensuring that the other half had very little power, and encouraged them not to worry their pretty little heads about it. Feminism spotted this and objected to it, and the rest of the world has slowly conceded that they’ve got a pretty bullet-proof point. Now only a small minority disagree, normally for reasons of religion or golf.

For a few thousand years there was another conspiracy that legitimised the idea of owning humans. Bad enough in itself, that conspiracy also ensured that people were often divided up into ‘owners’ and ‘owned’ based largely on skin colour. Another conspiracy made sure that men who want to have sex with men feel really awkward, and women who want to have sex with women feel impossible. And there’s probably another massive conspiracy going on right now which we’re entirely unaware of, which will make future generations look back at us and tut - probably something to do with robots.

One conspiracy that is definitely not happening is the liberal conspiracy. There is not a secret group of powerful people forcing the masses to adopt tolerant, compassionate opinions against their will. No such group exists, and even if it did it wouldn’t have the means, motive, or opportunity to carry out their vile plan. Yet some people demand that this is what is happening.

Some people get suspicious when they hear liberal opinions. Why are they saying these things? Why don’t they say what they really think? It doesn’t occur to them that liberal people exist. Liberal people are saying what they really think, they just think different things from you. To claim that no one could possibly think anything different from you shows a dreadful lack of imagination.

This is what was behind the ‘Are you thinking what we’re thinking?’ Tory campaign at the 2005 election. They wanted us to reply, ‘Yes, and we’re relieved you’ve finally said it out loud’. But the electorate’s actual response was, ‘No, and please stop asking such creepy questions.’

Healthy debate requires disagreement. But it also requires respect. When someone says, ‘I believe in X,’ it takes a special kind of arrogance to reply, ‘No, you don’t.’ 

If a local council, a quango, or a comedian on a panel show (or a blogging comedian who’s never been on a panel show, but is available at surprisingly affordable rates) - if any of these demonstrates sympathy towards the vulnerable, they are not doing it to annoy you. They are doing it because they believe in it. The fact that it annoys you is just a happy by-product.

The real problem with the imagined liberal conspiracy - compared to the real male or white conspiracies - is the question of who benefits. Sexism and racism prevailed because they benefited the powerful, so the powerful made sure they continued. But what advantage do liberal opinion-formers gain from their stance? There is no evidence that their motive is in any way ulterior. Any prominent liberal mouthpiece rubbing their hands in glee and cackling evilly is kidding themselves.

If the liberal consensus really has gone too far, if political correctness really has gone mad, then society’s project to protect the needy is over.  Since early last century we have, as a society, decided that the poor should receive healthcare, education, and a basic financial safety net; that the sick should receive treatment regardless of their wealth; and the old should be given a third option that is neither ‘work’ nor ‘starve’.

Opponents of the imagined liberal consensus must feel that this project is finished - that the hungry now have a constant reliable source of food, and the poor have been abolished. In fact, they must think this was managed a while ago, and every effort made since then has been wasteful and counter-productive. Society is now too compassionate, and the biggest problem the needy face is that they get too much help.

That is a caricature of the right-wing position, but it’s the best guess we have about what they think. We never hear their position properly outlined - not because the liberal consensus is so all-powerful that it silences all right-wing voices. The real problem is that right-wingers, when given a platform, use it to complain that they’re never given a platform. They refuse to talk about the real issues, they just speak constantly about how they’re not allowed to speak. It makes you wonder what they have to hide.

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