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Justice and Civility

For some time public figures have received threats. Rarely do they take them seriously, and in fact only very occasionally are they serious. However in recent years the political discourse has grown very ugly. Although neo-Fascists and populists have fanned the flames of popular hatred, in fact the crisis of "civility" goes back a pretty long way.  After forming a coalition with the Conservatives in the UK, the Liberal Democrat leader faced significant abuse: dog shit through the letter box and all the rest of it. This routine and increasingly extreme abuse against MPs has now become simply an occupational hazard. In the 1950s MPs were generally respected, which is why the profumo scandal was so impactful, but now they are pretty universally denigrated and derided. In fact I believe that the majority of MPs are decent and honourable people who by-and-large deserve our respect, there are very few prepared to express that point of view. 

However, it is fair to say that those MPs who have greedy or anti-social motives for seeking office are not distinguished from the rest. Thus the relatively rare examples of corruption and even criminality have tarred all politicians.  

How regularly do we hear the angry chorus "you're all the same"? 

The fact is that not all politicians are the same, but we have a system that punishes the good at the expense of the bad. We need to be discriminating in our choice of leaders, but we have a take-it-or-leave-it electoral system. We can vote for political ideas, but elect a bad MP, simply because they have the right colour rosette. Alternatively we can vote for a good MP, but one who does not fully share our own political ideas. The fact is that there have been good and bad MPs in all parties, but the voters do not control the process as much as they should. This is leading to a sense of alienation.

The fact is that the voters do not and have never felt that we "are all in this together", they have the evidence that we have privileged elites who have twisted the banking system for they own crooked ends. They see injustice in the health system, the benefits system and at work, and the coziness of the rich to the powerful alienates society still further from its controllers.

The hypocritical Mr. Trump condemns the attacks being made on figures such as George Soros, and now wider attacks on figures in the United States deemed to be "Liberal". Yet it is Mr. Trump's invective that has given license to the disaffected and the mentally ill. His policies do not address injustice, they create it. 

The fact is that thoughtful arguments do not stir the blood, but if we really want to adress the problems of our society, then we will have to learn to listen to brains and not to gut feelings. 

Despite the invective of the neo-Fascists, which -for example- killed Jo Cox MP, we must try to shape the argument for justice in the language of reason. Fighting hatred with hatred will not work, we have to return to the still small voice of calm.

Justice requires civility as well as rectitude. The bombastic and the wrong can be stopped, as Joe McCarthy was stopped.   


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