Sunday, January 29, 2006

Tolerance vs. Victimhood.

Recent political events in Britain have made me think about the notion of "tolerance." Most Brits, asked to define "Britishness" would mention this quality. Having lived in other countries, I am not so sure we are entitled to lay claim to it. Most attempts to create a more tolerant society in Britain seem to lead to new forms of intolerance. I am beginning to think that puritanism is the real defining quality of Britishness.

Take sexuality. When I was a student politician, gay rights were a major issue. But they were an issue on which then twenty-somethings (now forty-somethings) were, and are, completely united. Gay people could no more choose to be straight than straights could choose to be gay. They were entitled to equal respect for their orientation. Society would be healthier if they were allowed to be open about their sexuality. All fine and tolerant. Two decades on, however, "homophobia" is an allegation made far more frequently than it was then. The bar has been raised. To be tolerant, one must now accept that primary school children should be taught about homosexuality. My wife recently met a young teacher who was emigrating to New Zealand because she didn't feel she should have to do that - and was being accused of "homophobia". To be tolerant one must denounce or even try to repress the ancient religions which - understandably - are not able to adapt what they believe to be the word of God, Allah or Whomever to current thinking. We have moved from tolerance to puritanical repression. We have just changed the target. Perhaps it is time to suggest that homosexuals will only truly become equal members of our society when they cease to see themselves as victims.

Take race. The recent unfortunate remarks of Sir Ian Blair have caused a debate. I visited, as I often do, the BBC's "Have your Say" pages on its news website to get a feel for the range of opinion. The comments posted by the public appeared to divide (as far as one can tell from the scant information about people posting comments) on racial lines. White Britain believes that it is discriminated against; that any black person who is attacked is the victim of racist violence, whereas any white victim is merely an unfortunate statistic. Person after person commented that, when an assailant was being hunted, the public could only tell if he was from an ethnic minority if his colour was not mentioned. Black and Asian posters, however, are convinced of entirely the opposite. Whatever else this means, it proves the races are not moving closer together. They are in separate social "silos" holding opinions which cannot be reconciled. Significantly, people of all races now seem to crave the all-important status of victim. Is that surprising? Government spending is systematically skewed, is it not, towards "the most vulnerable members of society?" That is clearly the team to be on.

Take education. My generation was and is, Right and Left, universally hostile to discrimination against the socially-disadvantaged. Those not lucky enough to afford private education should have the opportunity to attend the best universities. We still believe that, but - again - the envelope is being pushed. Truth to tell, there were more State school pupils at Oxbridge in the bad old days of grammar schools, because they gave access to a good education for talented members of the working class. Thatcher's cabinet had more State-educated members than Blair's for the same reason. Nothing has inhibited social mobility in Britain more than Comprehensive Schools. Nothing. Yet they have become, with the NHS, the second sacred cow of British politics. Before speaking about education every politician, from Right or Left, must begin with a ritual denunciation of "academic selection." As educational standards plummet, so politicians seek to force the universities to lower entry standards selectively so that my privately-educated daughters are openly required to achieve higher standards than pupils who went to the sink Comprehensive my wife and I attended. We have moved from being against discrimination to being in favour of discrimination - against someone else. We have moved, again, to reward "victims" so that victimhood becomes a desired status.

This cannot surely be right? If vulnerability is the new aristocracy, how likely is that to promote social and economic progress?


ContraTory said...

If you carry on telling home truths like this, Tom, you are going to find yourself in very serious trouble.

Tom Paine said...

Thanks for worrying, Contratory. I have long realised that if I retire to the UK, I won't need any pension provision as I will quickly be jailed for thought crime!

It's not funny, really. I don't need Gordon Brown to tell me how to feel about being British. I love my country, but it has been hi-jacked by the tossers from the "Broad Left" faction in the NUS when I was at university. We trounced them then, but we made the mistake of going off into productive real life while they stayed in political Toytown.

As President of NUS and leader of said Broad Left, Charles Clarke was propounding "No Platform for Fascists and Racists" (i.e. no expression of views contrary to his) in the mid-1970's. Now he's sponsoring legislation to make that discredited slogan the law. All he had to do to achieve it was modify his beard and hairstyle to look slightly less like Karl Marx.

Enjoy your last few days of stating the truth about Islam, for example. As from next Tuesday, the truth will be well on its way to being a thought crime.

Anonymous said...

Thought crime though it is, it's jolly good! Keep it up! I watched Question Time the other day and Simon Hughes argued against selection on academic grounds in schools... ...I'm still confused as to whether these guys have been brainwashed by the PC brigade and associated Lefties, or whether it's just that they are misremembering the past through some sort of amnesia!

Deogolwulf said...

I think you are right in identifying these developments as "puritanism", and I suspect that one may well see that the current life-denying and totalitarian strictures in our society are the expression of some profound sickness in the collective human psyche, as evinced through the ages not only by the modern examples (socialism, Nazism, etc) but by sundry self-flagellants, Hussites, Taborites, puritans, pietists, etc. It would be interesting to see a study of the history of the underlying psychology, and even to give it a name!

Chris Palmer said...

Here's a possible quote for your blog:

"Any society that would give up a little liberty to gain a little security will deserve neither and lose both." - Benjamin Franklin

Despite what the "respectable" right and looney left would have us all believe, race and homosexuality are still issues - it's just that many don't speak up.

You quite often find that people of political leftist orientation say that Britain has always been tolerant - say it enough (they hope) and it becomes true. The left then associate themselves with "liberalism" and "tolerance" and while preaching this - actively go against it by being intolerance racist, islamaphobic bigots by stereotyping the views of others and aggressively name calling anyone who does not agree with them.

niconoclast said...

That is why clause 28 was so important.Wiser counsel would have told that the Homintern would never settle for legal recognition.The Homofascists were misread.

Surely now time to bring back clause 28 and drive the inverts back to the closet (no I don't mean men's toiltets)