"…Good God, for a man who solicits insurance", wrote Dorothy Parker, although she didn’t really live up to this, in the sense that, as I understand it, she kept on going for impressive if fundamentally rubbish men as opposed to dull but worthy ones. However, anyone who bothers to read this blog (Hello, Mum!) will probably have gathered that I too, am pretty down on the sort of person who has to be out saving the world every weekend. No doubt this shows the fundamental self-centredness of my temperament and I will come to regret my failure to go on more demos when global warming leads to London being submerged by floods and I have to flee to a refugee camp in Amersham. But it is as it is, and if I’m going to subscribe to a philosophy of "Oh, blow all those idealists", I should perhaps try and set it out in a more positive way. Re-reading my posts (yes, I should get out more), a lot of them seem to be critical of other people’s ideas without putting forward any of my own.
I suppose that what I believe in might be called reactive government. Fundamentally, I think that society (and the world generally) is changing all the time, whether we want it to or not. What almost everyone involved in politics in any sense seems to want to do, from world leaders like Barack Obama to well-meaning Guardian readers who sign petitions, is to push it to change in particular directions that suit their pre-conceived ideas of how the world should be. This is true of all politicians – even those who label themselves conservative are to some extent operating under false pretences, since they are in fact as much in favour of changing things that don’t suit their pre-conceptions as radicals, like Margaret Thatcher imposing the free market or David Cameron cutting back on "Big Government". I don’t think it is right for a politician or anyone else to do this, firstly, because such attempts never work; the ideology comes up against practical limits, and fails, to the dissolution of all concerned. No human being has the wisdom to claim that they know how society should operate; it’s bigger than all of us. Secondly, in extreme cases, the ideology is imposed at a terrible human cost – Fascism or Communism are examples.
What politicians should be doing is saying – "Our basic job is to resolve disputes in society and we will do this. We have no policies and we have no pre-conceived notions of what society should be like and how life should be lived. How society ends up is the responsibility of those who form it. When there is clearly a social consensus that something needs reforming, we will respond to that, but we will not set out with a wish list of things we want changed and we will resist the siren voices of well-meaning people who want to battle something they perceive as evil, because frankly, how do they know it is? We will also resist the siren voices of apparently well meaning people who claim to want to battle something they perceive as evil but in reality want some money to be given to an interest group that they represent. The two categories are unfortunately not mutually exclusive. Human effort cannot produce a perfect world. It is unlikely to produce a world that is much less evil than the present one, although it may eliminate particular evils along the way. We will take no notice of sententious people who say that all that is necessary for evil to triumph is that good men should do nothing. You should try seeing how fast things go up the spout when good men start doing something."
So that’s the solution to all political problems (ha!) wrapped up then – now for some exclusive dialogue which probably doesn’t appear in the new film "The Last Airbender", a fantasy film set on an alien planet where those with magic powers over the four elements are referred to as benders:-
1. "Do not underestimate the power of the benders."
2. "How did your flat come to have these air, water, earth and fire symbols painted on the walls?"
"Oh, my interior decorators were a bunch of benders."
3. "You are truly a colossal bender."
4. "My friend went off on a bender two days ago and I haven’t seen him since."
5. "This film probably won’t be very successful with most people, but it will definitely be a must see for benders and those who appreciate them."