There are monsters abroad – and some of our own to fight at home too
Posted on April 5, 2022
What to do about all this misery?
The utter barbarity of Russia’s invasion. Rape and hunger as weapons of war in Europe once again. Dictators and brutes cementing their rule across continents from Orban to Mohdi. Le Pen still looking to make fascism respectable. Poland welcoming white refugees while leaving those with darker skins to freeze on the Belorussian border. In the third decade of the 21st century, in one of the world’s largest economies, working people choosing between heating and eating. And the planet. The planet where, reliable sources inform us, we have now have months, not years, to put things right.
Easy to shrug, however reluctantly, and hope that somehow, just somehow things will take a turn for the better. Look to our loved ones, exercise, nature, music and Netflix for succour. It’s an understandable but fatal strategy. It’s also what our own political leaders want us to do.
They’ll take silence for consent. And while we’re being quiet, villains will ride roughshod over our lives, our rights and our planet. And, for the avoidance of doubt, we’re talking about our own backyard here – not the darkening badlands across the Channel.
When Peter Hebblethwaite brazenly explained to MPs that he knew he was acting illegally by summarily sacking 800 P&O workers, he provided a perfectly reasonable explanation. I didn’t consult with these workers as demanded by the law, because I knew they wouldn’t agree with me. So, you see, that seemed an entirely good reason for breaking a law I didn’t care for.
I won’t insult your intelligence by joining every last dot. When Jacob Rees-Mogg tries to dismiss enduring concerns about governmental law-flouting as ‘fluff’, that tells us enough. Law- breaking is the new rock and roll as far as Johnson’s government is concerned. From wallpaper to Brexit to the-bypassing of parliament to fixing contracts for his shag-buddy to sticking two-fingers up at the British public and all points in between. It’s what he does. And it’s Johnson’s gang which sets the tone for the likes of Hebblethwaite.
As for those he’s chosen to steer the ship of state, how to do full justice to their dishonourable ineptitude? Patel and her spiteful Nationality and Borders Bill which erects barrier after unnecessary barrier against those wishing to do no more than come to fill the thousands of jobs, where vacancies currently stifle public service and private industry. Or her Police, Crimes, Sentencing and Courts Bill, designed to quell protest and public opposition. Orban, maybe even Putin, would be nodding along approvingly at that one.
Then there’s Sunak. The man charged with resetting the economy as people spend fevered nights with crazy numbers churning through their half-sleep. With energy companies pocketing billions, his best shot is a measly cut – as yet imperceptible in its implementation – for those people who have a car. Wages plummet, prices rise and services wither, so let’s hit the people who can really solve the problem. That’s them. The poor ones. This Chancellor business is money for old rope.
Liz Truss sitting on a tank; Nadine Dorries selling off Channel 4 and getting an old mate to oversee it; Nadhim Zadawi forcing more schools into private hands; a Prime Minister who supports conversion therapy one minute and changes his mind the next; Alok Sharma telling us that we’ve got this when it comes to saving the earth. We are presided over by an absolute confederacy of incompetent dunces.
A few days after the Russian invasion, a friend who has only a passing interest in the news told me of his dismay and incomprehension. What he really wanted to know was why would the Russian people put up with what was being done in their name. Would there be protests in the street? Would Putin’s advisers take him to one side and ask him what the bloody hell he was playing at?
There followed a conversation about the early, systematic and sometimes brutal quashing of dissent. About how parts of the population probably knew only too well that they were being lied to but had become either too apathetic or scared to do anything about it. About how ideas about national pride and exceptionalism could be made to sound very attractive in hard times. About how the energy-sapping business of getting through life left people with little time or inclination to take notice of events in the public and political sphere.
Which is why, with war on our doorstep and villains preening themselves around the world, our job is protect every civil liberty, call out every injustice and identify every dishonest public act here at home. When young people walk out of school because they don’t want a future of burning or drowning, we need to support them, not punish them. That same unstinting support needs to be given to those striking for their jobs and to those who will be refusing to pay unpayable bills. When heads of state tell us lies, they shouldn’t be tolerated. That’s what we’d like to see over in foreigner-land, so let’s not settle for less here.
Cliché or not, the price of liberty is eternal vigilance. The moment we allow lies, deception and inequality to become normalised, we become lazily complicit in what monsters do in our name. Most of us can’t take up arms or provide meaningful protest against the world’s Putins, but we can certainly make sure our homegrown rogues aren’t allowed to get away with murder.