Skip to main content

What is to be done?

My latest trip to the UK made me very sad and somewhat angry.

Even on the Katia washed streets of Edinburgh there were young men begging for change. In Estonia the beggars are old and genuinely in need, in Edinburgh they were young and genuinely unemployable. The beggars are a symbol of something worse- the palpable sense that most people no longer feel in control of their destiny. So many have withdrawn into a squalid fantasy world of drugs, alcohol or video games. The misery is obvious and the determination to escape equally so- drunkenness is everywhere. The pallid obesity which is the general lot on the streets is a great shock, after you have  become used to the good health and good looks of the Estonians.

It is therefore not enough to say that there is a political crisis, or even an economic crisis: what I see is a moral crisis. Too many Scots were abdicating their own personal responsibility: "this is the fault of the English, independence will fix this". Too many elsewhere were arguing "it is the economic crisis that did this to us".  The fact is that the fault is not in others, but in ourselves, that we lack the awareness and the energy to define the problem and fix it.

Britain remains a rich country, but the population are failing to take responsibility, let alone take control in their own lives. It is irresponsible to smoke, to drink too much, to fail to take any exercise, to fail to study properly, to spend more than you earn. The consequences of such irresponsibility include poor health, poor wealth and a poor understanding of the world.

I think that politicians are expected to provide leadership and yet, how can they? A politician can determine how much is spent on anti smoking campaigns, but can not determine whether or not people smoke. Yet the politicians are attacked when the health service can not cope with the health consequences to those who choose to smoke, who choose to drink to excess, who can not control their diet and exercise regime.

So in the words of the Russians of the 19th century faced with the political paralysis of Czarism: "What is to be done?"

The Liberal solution has been to place political control with those most affected by political decisions. If people take control, they end up becoming more engaged and making better decisions.

The problem now is the apathy in British society. The failure of the AV referendum reflects a primary failure of those who believe in such political and constitutional change to explain the critical significance of this to the voters, however, it also reflects a deep political inertia.

Yet I have come to the conclusion that though the Liberal Democrats must continue to make the case in government for major reform, the fact is that we need to recover more of ourselves as a party of ideas, rather than as a mere "party of the court". We need to consider the entire issue of social and political engagement. We know that societies where the citizen is politically active- like Switzerland or the town meetings of the United States- create happier and more engaged citizens which in turn create greater social cohesion and greater wealth.

We also know that social alienation is immensely destructive and can lead to a vicious circle of disillusion and failure. The fact is, across British Society, from the riots of the summer, to the rantings of the Daily Mail, apathy, and disillusion are combining to create exactly such a vicious circle. 

I suppose the first thing that we can do is to make people- including ourselves- believe that things can change. If we can cross that bridge of self belief, then we may consider how best to proceed, but the most critical thing right now is to rediscover optimism. 

If we are to address our moral crisis, we need first to repair our morale.

It is in pretty short supply on the streets of Edinburgh right now.  


Popular posts from this blog

Breaking the Brexit logjam

The fundamental problem of Brexit has not been that the UK voted to leave the European Union. The problem has been the fact that the vote was hijacked by ignorant, grandstanding fools who interpreted the vote as a will to sever all and every link between the UK and the European Union. That was then and is now a catastrophic policy. To default to WTO rules, when any member of the WTO could stop that policy was a recipe for the UK to be held hostage by any state with an act to grind against us. A crash out from the EU, without any structure to cope, was an act of recklessness that should disqualify anyone advocating it from any position of power whatsoever. That is now the most likely option because the Conservative leadership, abetted by the cowardly extremism of Corbyn, neither understood the scale of the crisis, now had any vision of how to tackle it.

Theresa May is a weak and hapless Prime Minster, and her problems started when she failed to realize that there was a compromise that w…

Trump and Brexit are the Pearl Harbor and the Fall of Singapore in Russia's Hybrid war against the West.

In December 1941, Imperial Japan launched a surprise attack on the United States at Pearl Harbor. After the subsequent declaration of war, within three days, the Japanese had sunk the British warships, HMS Prince of Wales and HMS Repulse, and the rapid Japanese attack led to the surrender of Hong Kong on Christmas Day 1941 and the fall of Singapore only two months after Pearl Harbor. These were the opening blows in the long war of the Pacific that cost over 30,000,000 lives and was only ended with the detonations above Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

"History doesn't often repeat itself, but it rhymes" is an aphorism attributed to Mark Twain, and in a way it seems quite appropriate when we survey the current scene. 

In 1941, Imperial Japan, knowing its own weakness, chose a non-conventional form of war, the surprise attack. Since the end of his first Presidential term, Vladimir Putin, knowing Russia's weakness, has also chosen non-conventional ways to promote his domestic powe…

The American National nightmare becomes a global nightmare

It is a basic contention of this blog that Donald J Trump is not fit for office.

A crooked real estate developer with a dubious past and highly questionable finances. he has systematically lied his way into financial or other advantage. His personal qualities include vulgarity, sexual assault allegations and fraudulent statements on almost every subject. 

He lost the popular vote by nearly three million votes.

He has, of course, been under criminal investigation practically since before he took the oath of office. The indictment of some of closest advisers is just the beginning. His track record suggests that in due course there is no action he will not take, whether illegal or unconstitutional in order to derail his own inevitable impeachment and the indictments that must surely follow the successful investigation of Robert Mueller into his connections with Russia.

However, all of that is a matter for the American people. 

It is also a matter for the American people that Trump is cheating…