Friday, September 16, 2011

The left, the right and right and wrong: that’s my opinion and to hell with your opinion. Basta! Oh, and three pics from South-East France

It would seem axiomatic that if you hold an opinion, or have a conviction, you assume you are completely right and that those who disagree with you are completely wrong. Leaving apart those of us - many, many people - who adopt an opinion after less than a second’s thought or come across an opinion in their newspaper of choice which they feel like adopting, I suggest that to have an opinion, or even to be convinced of something, should mean that you are always prepared to amend or even discard that view if facts, an argument or evidence is presented to you which shows you are, after all, wrong. That is, you have an open mind. Now, I could, ironically, be quite wrong, of course, and I am - surprise, surprise - by sticking to that view obliged to accept that subsequently facts, and argument of evidence will show conclusively that my view is complete bloody nonsense. It is crucial here to distinguish between a fact and an opinion. Unfortunately, too many people are unwilling to accept that disctinction. And equally unfortunately, too many people are unwilling to take part in a any discourse the outcome of which might be that what they have held to be true is simply not the case. So far, so boring and, probably, so far so first year philosophy tutorial.

Because so few people are prepared to take part in any discourse the upshot of which might be that they are talking complete cobblers means that when they do engage in a ‘political
conversation, what occurs is never a conversation. If they hold opposing views, what they think is ‘a conversation’ is nothing more, and nothing more interesting, than both sides parading their prejudices. One does occasionally come across someone who is, or does seem, prepared, to discuss matters in a way that they listen to your views and you listen to theirs, and both parties are prepared to amend their opinion in the light of what is said. Very occasionally. And usually when it become obvious, and it usually very soon becomes obvious, that the other side merely wants to tell you what they think and everything else be damned, I bow out as soon as possible. It’s not the kind of ‘conversation’ I am interested in being a part of. (It try exit stage left, as it where, diplomatically, but sometimes my refusal to engage in a transaction of prejudice is noticed and I am accused of arrogance. Oh well.)

Unsurprisingly, the kind of closed mind I dislike engaging with is found on both the right and the left, and were they only self-aware enough to realise it, both are as bad as each other. You only have to scroll their the ‘comments’ of those who leave ‘comments’ on the Guardian, Mail and Telegraph websites to gather quite how distressingly widespread closed minds are. I have not lived in Germany for some years, but I get the impression that the Germans are a little more nuanced in their political discourse, and it will be no suprise that consensus and its cousin compromise, of which we Brits make such a song and dance, is far more part of the fabric of German society. (It wasn’t always the case - just look at the street fighting which went on in the run-up to the Third Reich. Ironically, if the German right at the time wasn’t so closely allied to the more powerful sections of society, it might well have been a communist Germany with which the Brits and Americans would eventually find themselves at war.) But in Britain (I can’t at this point write ‘here in Britain, because I am writing this on a balcony overlooking sunny Essert-Romand) we simply resort to the Tweedledum-Tweedledee school of political discourse which gets none of us bloody anywhere.

It must be said, however, that the left has, apparently, made more progress than the right. Partly, that is the fault of the right, and especially the far right, who are less inclined to address and adopt change. A further disadvantage of the right in Britain is that it has successfully been identified with The Haves, The Rich and The Uncaring, whereas the left is now almost universally identified with The Have Nots, The Poor and The Caring. It doesn’t matter that both identification are rubbish, that is the current mood, and one continually and successfully exploited by the left. Any suspicion of ‘imposing authority’, as the right’s insistence that those guilty of theft and arson during the recent riots, is portrayed as being more or less akin to the reaction of various fascist dictatorships in the past who were all to ready to lock people up and throw away the key. The left, on the other hand, insists that we should examine the causes of the riots and try to understand what brought so many to steal without compunction. But for many who regard themselves on the left it is but a sigh away from virtually forgiving the theft and arson because ‘it is their backgrounds, they are disadvantaged, they are unemployed without the prospect of a job’.

To that I always retort: And what about the very many more from the same background who are equally disadvantaged and also unemployed with no prospect of a job who didn’t resort to theft and arson? The reaction to what I say is always the same: that I am just another bastard from the right, one of The Haves, one of The Rich and one of The Uncaring. There is no attempt to consider my opinion. In fact, even considering my opinion would be viewed as weakness. (For the record, it has now become apparent that as many as a quarter of those hauled before the courts for theft and arson and at least ten previous convictions for similar offences. My view is that most certainly we should try to understand why an awful lot of people felt it acceptable to loot their communities, but we should make very clear that theft and arson are not acceptable.)

The advance of ‘progressive’ thought - I have put it in quotes not because I want to be snide, but because I believe the thinking is anything but progressive - has led to an almost terminal corruption of the notion of responsibility. And I suggest that just how corrupted our thinking has become is demonstrated by the fact that any emphasis on the citizen’s responsibilities and duties to others is regarded as a sign of some kind of crypto-fascism. That, too, is as a result of the almost infantile obssession that my views are right, so yours must be wrong.
It has taken Britain a very long time to reach this state of affairs and it will take Britain a very long time to heal itself. It is not a result of immigration or an over-generous welfare state, and it is not the result of agents of the left permeating society. It is simply that we have had a cushy life for a long time now and and we are now taking far too much for granted. Including our freedoms. Not a good thing. We must value more again.

This last thought might seem a leap to far but I don’t believe it is: in my experience those who have little are far more generous than those who have a lot. Why? Because those who have little at least value the little they have and helping another out is closer to their souls.

. . .

The lake at Montriond

The Mairie at Morzine

The lake at Montriond again

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