Saturday, June 14, 2008

David Davis and the people's freedom

There has been much speculation over the motivations for David Davis's resignation—"it's a political stunt", "it's another bid for the Tory leadership", "it doesn't matter because it's a safe seat", and suchlike. Many have pointed out the fact that he would probably have been Home Secretary within a couple of years and could thus have fought this law more effectively from the front benches.

But I think that we "intellectuals" in these rarified media and blogosphere worlds have missed something really quite crucial: we have missed out the public.

We were told that some 69% of the general public supported the 42 days' detention. Many of these, I suspect, were people, like my brother, who simply hadn't thought about it. After all, amongst other things, some 85% of the population of Britain are white and blithely imagine that this law wouldn't affect them; it's the "I'm alright, Jack" attitude.

An appallingly large number of people in this county—as poll after poll shows—are astonishingly ignorant of our own history, let alone that of totalitarian states such as Nazi Germany, fascist Italy or Soviet Russia. They will not have heard of "salami-slicing" as applied to the erosion of freedoms.

Further, many of these people will never follow the news and thus not be aware of the way in which other authoritarian legislation has been abused by the government, the police and the other agents of the state.

For those of us writing blogs, all of this seems so simple. Over the three and a half years of writing The Kitchen, my mind has been stimulated and I have thought and considered such things far more than I ever did before. Writing about liberty, and its slow death in this country, concentrates the mind wonderfully: we political bloggers are big on social freedom (yes, even those on the left) partly, I think, because the blogging medium is, by its very nature, an exercise in personal freedom.

But the vast majority of the country don't think about such things; they don't care and they aren't aware. Many of them will respond only to the dog whistle politics—immigrants, petrol prices, eeeevil paedos, etc.—raised by The Sun and other, even lower, rags. The concept of freedom can seem a somewhat nebulous one and difficult to grasp, especially when one is talking of so-called "negative liberties".

Obviously, I cannot see into the mind of David Davis but, if I were him, this is one of the main reasons why I would have taken this step. I would have looked at those polls; I would have been aghast at the fact that 69% of the population of Britain were seemingly unconcerned about the loss of their Ancient Liberties and Freedoms, unworried about the loss of their protection from unlawful imprisonment. And I would have despaired.

It is not enough to persuade the political classes that it is wrong to lock people away for six weeks without even telling them what they are accused of; and especially, from a party political point of view, when NuLabour would eagerly have accused the Tories of being "soft on terrorists" and when the people of this country would have agreed with them.

What Davis's resignation might do—what he might at least have hoped—is to serve as a high-profile media slap to the people of this country. It might just serve as a catalyst to thought, to get people to consider precisely what it is that they are happy to sign away.

The idea must be to make people realise that this law is not "tough on terrorism, tough on the causes of terrorism": no, it is "tough on liberty, tough on the causes of liberty".

Stuff the political classes and the professional media and the Westminster Village; if Davis's resignation prompts the ordinary people of this country—those who wave flags at the Last Night of the Proms whilst gleefully singing about how they "never, never will be slaves"—actually to consider the nature of liberty and to pause, take stock, and realise what freedoms they have already lost, then it will have been more than a "stunt", more than a vain and empty gesture.

It might just wake people up, to drag them away from their facile, tedious lives, and force them to realise that they are already slaves to a great extent. Maybe, just maybe, they will look up from their reality TV shows and their TV dinners, and their binge drinking, their drugs and their petty theft, and understand that there are some things, some concepts, rather more important than who is going to win Big Brother.

Alas, although my hope springs eternal, in reality, I'm not holding my breath.

11 comments:

pooter said...

My thoughts exactly, bugger the 'swing' voters, galvanise the 'don't bother to' voters. The last time that happened was the poll tax which put paid to Mrs T. No chance of that happening this time but the thought of mass street protests against that evil cunt Brown gives me a warm glow.

Anonymous said...

Couldn't have put it better, myself.

I just hope that Davis is able to keep emphasising civil liberties in general rather than only the particular example of 42 days. This will save people the trouble of trying to make the connection...

Joyce

wonderfulforhisage said...

Hear, hear.

DD is a true leader not a follower of focus groups like Bliar and his Heir.

Would that DD had won the LEADERSHIP election.

Anonymous said...

The complacent white population in this country, who blithely consider themselves free without ever thinking about all the freedoms their statist masters have stolen, will inevitably get a rude awakening to the realities of life in a country where individuals can be disappeared at the whim of an unaccountable policeman.

White Britons will learn the same lesson that Pastor Niemoeller famously learned.

Unfortunately, by then, it'll probably be too late.

BenSix said...

A good post, although I don't believe that the public has the blithe attitude towards political affairs that you seem to be suggesting.

You mention the differing attitudes between bloggers and the public, and - without wanting to plunge us all into a frenzied circle jerk - the access to such diverse information also promotes a sceptical attitude in us. Citizens with little reading beyond The Sun, The Mail and the occasional Guardian have been bombarded with bomb threats, terrorist cells and risin plots, and will - often - genuinely fear the omniscient terrorist threat.

As they have conveniently little knowledge of this threat, of course, their fears can only be quelled by the patriarchal state.

"The idea must be to make people realise that this law is not "tough on terrorism, tough on the causes of terrorism": no, it is "tough on liberty, tough on the causes of liberty."

Very well put.

Incidentally, here's something to fume over - http://lukeakehurst.blogspot.com/2008/06/idea.html

pagar said...

What has been so disappointing is that the media have almost universally depicted Davis as cynical, egotistical, self serving or mad and have unanimously refused to discuss the erosions of our liberties which he has tried to highlight.

It is a sad commentary on how far we have descended into the shit that it seems impossible for them to countenance the possibility that that any politician could possibly take an action informed by principle.

God help us all.

David Davis said...

The nightmare scenario, which I predict and fear will happen, is that:
(1) Nobody will stand against Davis

(2) he will get about 398 votes, and these people will be identified as "Libertarians" and "extreme Right Wing", both on the Booby-See and in the dark hallways of the State, and they will be watched thenceforth, and worse.

(3) The MSM will pillory him thereafter, as having "stood against the interests of the safety of the people".

Wasn't the original name of the KGB the "Committee for Public Safety"?

Gareth said...

This 69% in favour, does anyone know what the question was?

For example this;
Would you support detaining suspected terrorists for up to 42 days without charge?

Is very different from this;
Would you support detaining innocent people for up to 42 days without charge?

berenike said...

Well, as St Thomas Aquinas points out when discussing why God bothered writing the ten commandments on a stone if they can be worked out by reason alone - some people aren't that bright, and most of them are very busy staying alive, and thus whole societies might not get round to working out "Never pinch other people's stuff".

The really frustrating and sad thing is that people who get paid to think and then write about this sort of thing (theoretically, at least) appear to be a) uninterested in talking about the issues or writing about politics as if it were something other than a giant Big Brother b)not that bright c)considerably less informed than me, which is saying an awful lot.

If I had four children and a mortgage, I could be forgiven for not reading beyond the Sun (the Guardian is possibly the Unforgiveable Crime:-) or thinking much about it. But the cynic or fool who doesn't digest the issue and present it intelligently and clearly for me to read in the paper of my choice - well, something should be done with him, beginning with sacking.

V said...

As most people in the world of blogs, I have been thinking about this issue.

My plan is to produce a TV pilot where the crew go out and kidnap an MP and stick them in a cell for 41 days.

Everyday, you tell them that you suspect they may have had terrorist thoughts, and use examples of their statements in the press against them.

On day 41 they are released.

The fun bit is the hidden cameras which follow them for the next 42 days as they try to put their lives back together again.

This would be a ratings winner - Think I might call it The Real Big Brother!

Anyone got a camera and the phone no of the chief commissioning editor for the BBC?

Anonymous said...

Interestingly, and not unwelcome, you've reached a very patrician conclusion which could be called disdainful and patronising to the masses, from an anti-Establishment perspective.

Perhaps you will take stock when you lay into Cameron or Brown for doing something, on the grounds of its unpopularity.