Fifth Column – Issue 21


We have all too often heard the political cliche spouted by our Right Honourables about having to make difficult decisions, we are indeed made sick to the back benches hearing it. When it comes to such dilemmas it is noticeable that these decisions invariably affect others, usually detrimental to us ordinary Joes and Josephines, proles, the infirm and vulnerably aged. Wouldn’t it be refreshing to see these arbiters of social mores forego supplementing their generous (self-regulated in the main) stipends of public money and actually show a willingness to pay for some of the smaller goods and services constituting living expenses. Those day to day costs their legislation, their so-called laissez faire approach (that suits them and their ilk) facilitating our vulnerability to the greed and whims of private enterprise. Considering that a majority, if not all of the Tory party and too many of the so-called opposition, including what used to be the Liberal party in whatever current nomenclature it takes on, enthusiastically propose, and probably believe, that the private sector will supply worthwhile jobs and an economic recovery, these decisions are not ideologically difficult for them. The facts that their political and intellectual orientation to the world create and perpetuate unfairness and privilege masquerading as meritocracy means that any difficulty will be meted out on those they consider of less economic value than themselves and their social peers.

To make a decision to raise money by imposing a Feudal spare-bedroom tax on those most in need, in public housing and not include themselves availing themselves of public housing they under occupy and financially benefit from (see any article on expenses claims) and the public houses under occupied by Royalty throughout the year, defines the class-specific term ‘difficulty’ in their political rhetoric.

I can hear the cynical cry of too many people here, that of, “We’d all do the same if we were in their position.” This kind of cynical homily fails on many levels: not all humans are intrinsically greedy; not all humans are power crazed; not all humans have given up on authentic progress. It also fails to acknowledge our class-ridden passivity in accepting rules that control our behaviours (see any workplace terms and conditions). The first rule of public service is “selflessness” so a difficult decision for politicians would be made easier if they were as keen as us of the lower would-be working-classes to follow edicts or regulations on behaviour even if it means curtailing our human nature, thinking cynically of course. This latter element is significant in that it seems that to become better human beings, we need to become more unnatural.

Too often we conveniently recognise an aspect of nature that we share with the animal kingdom, and in recognising it we organise our social and political organisations as if it is the only impulse in us as humans. Although I accept there are times when it seems groups called an electorate would still vote for any animal – usually higher primates, so that’s some consolation – to lord it over us, especially when the elected human animal shows a propensity to feed off the weakest and  most vulnerable in society.

Yes, human nature is complex, and has animal tendencies or capacities – look at the jungle that can be shopping centres – but it also has humanistic tendencies and capacity – our deeply-rooted desire for politeness to mean what it says – and, because we are not slaves to our nature, we can wilfully fashion ourselves and our social organisation in particularly humane ways. We have legitimate choice to be constructively, progressively unnatural. A key element in this condition is thought, that wonderful capacity, ability if you will (no pun intended) to think beyond our condition, in order to realise a valued and really honourable humane condition of existence for ourselves as individuals and others in the world simultaneously. we do not by any necessity have to accept conditions imposed by those who it serves to promote a predatory, dog-eat-dog society as if it is so natural as to be an immutable condition rather than a transitory situation of reality.

We need to be truly charitable and denounce the institutionalised cynical approach to need (too often called Charity as its value is more often than not defined by money) so as to begin to actualise our impulse to help those in need of our shared humaneness. In short, we need to make, and insist on power structures that reflect, authentic decisions affecting others by affecting ourselves as difficult only in that they are counter to our prevailing self-destructive nature obsessed as it is with the valueless moment, the empty nowness, instead of the holistic time based identity we all share. The timelines that include past, to enjoy, suffer and learn from, and an authentic joy of anticipation for a future of possibility of being, and being better than we naturally expect or have accepted as a perpetual moment of non-being.

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