Saturday, November 24, 2012


We are sheep, we truly are, or really dumb dogs. We need huge heavy handed all encompassing state machinery to protect us from each other, to tell us what to do, to control, coerce, trick us into behaving, to teach us (despite it having a long track record of being wrong and inaccurate and biased and fickle and self-interested about everything), to punish us otherwise we will repeat our mistakes and misdemeanours over and over again, to repress our base urges, to decree how and who we love, who we have sex with, who we talk to and what we talk about, when we work, when we play, shop, gamble, drink, take drugs, what drugs we can and can't take with little bearing on how dangerous or helpful they are, it defines when we are sick and how and whether we should get better, what treatments we can and can't have regardless of efficacy, it restricts where we can go, how we can get there, what we can look at, what we can record to show others, what we can wear and not wear, how we should look, what work we can do, how much we can earn and be charged, it dictates how we should bring up our kids, how they should be taught (mainly to continue to be sheep), where we can take them, what we can show them, what dangers we can expose them to; then, if we don't behave like good little sheep (and often even if we do and through no fault of our own fall foul of the laws it put in place to maintain its control and authority) it can take away our possessions, our livelihood, our health, our dignity, our personal freedom (what little we had to start with), it can even take away our children and our loved ones, it can kill us or it can keep us alive against our will.

And this, we are told, is not a totalitarian state: it is democracy, it is enlightened. We have never had it so good, so many opportunities, so much choice, so much freedom of speech, so much equality. How beneficent, how generous, kind and wise must this state be to provide so much and offer us so much chance to better ourselves despite our huge failings. How much better off we are than other places and other times and things just keep getting better and we just keep getting better, wealthier, healthier and happier. But we are still stupid and we squander our new wealth, we spend it on the wrong things, invest it in the wrong places, don't spend enough when the economy needs it and don't save enough for our futures, we should have more than enough to live on but we somehow can't manage it, we are tricked out of money by conmen, we buy things we can't afford on a whim because of jealousy and greed, we buy food that we won't eat, gadgets we won't use, entertainment we won't enjoy, clothes we won't wear, we buy things that are polluting the planet, exploiting children, funnelling money and power to brutal crimelords, undermining the very places that we live. We squander our health too, eating the wrong things, eating too much, drinking, sitting on our arses watching people telling us we are sitting on our arses too much and then we encourage our children to do the same, to make the same mistakes we made as well as making their own. We are, in short, so bad at looking after ourselves and our children that it is only through the utmost restraint that the state allows us these freedoms. What tolerance and patience it must take to endlessly point out the damage we are going to do and then watch while we do it anyway.

Take smoking: however forcefully we were told by the state that it was killing us, successive generations took to it like the popular image of lemmings jumping to their deaths off the same cliff. Yet, decades passed with no new laws being passed to prevent us from smoking or even to prevent new people from picking up the habit from their parents, their friends and their colleagues - what restraint, how valuable must our right to make our own stupid decisions be! And now we are simply eating ourselves to death while once more the state stands by and warns us that we are eating ourselves to death and it will keep warning us until we have eaten ourselves to death, some of us and the rest of us are trying to keep going, keep doing all the things we are supposed to do, while we deal with fallout of all our mistakes. Because, like it or not, we are a society and we are as interdependent as bees in a beehive, so everybody pays for everybody else's actions. Not equally and not fairly, some will pay drastically heavier prices for other people's ignorance or greed while some will benefit fantastically from other people's bad luck or hard work but the state won't intervene because on average (if you measure things in a particular way and ignore the things which disagree with the outcome you want to see) the statistics all show upward trends.

So we accept the arbitrariness of laws that allow us to destroy ourselves one way but not another because although we are stupid and ignorant we are just bright enough to realise that we are stupid and ignorant and we know that it would be much more dangerous to be left to our own devices. We've seen images of the chaos that occurs when states collapse and law and order are not enforced, we all carry images of street fights, petrol bombs, looting and carnage and we know that the same would happen to us if we were let off the leash. We are scared of foreigners taking what belongs to us, we are scared of people who have less than us coveting what we have, we are scared of our way of doing things to be lost amongst new and dangerous ideas, there is too much conflicting information being thrust at us so we ignore everything except that which supports what we think we already know. This is obvious, but beneath this outward show of suspicion and contempt, what we truly fear is ourselves. Without being constantly told what to do we just can't really imagine how we would lead our lives. Like a lost sheep we can only tell where we need to go by watching the movement of the flock, we have no other compass to guide us. But the flock is moving haphardardly from one area of green grass to another and has no more special knowledge about where it is going that we do.


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