Saturday, March 18, 2006

How British Leftism Works (Plus Wombats)

Ooh, those wicked wadicals…I’m gonna get my wadical ewadicator.

The organized wings of liberal causes in the UK are fashioned much as they are here. Someone named Nigel or Fiona develops a vision of what the world should look like, or even better, what it shouldn’t look like but is sure as hell going to if the conservatives have their way. They try to get lots of other folks excited about Programme A. When the number of excited folks reaches around 20%, Fiona goes on TV, or is interviewed in The Guardian, outraged that society doesn’t want to pay for it. Meanwhile, Nigel forms an organization with a cool name. They inflate their rhetoric, fudge their facts, and start condensing their views onto bumper stickers. Programme A is in our best interest, you see. The water will be clean and no one will be poor if we just sign on.

It eventually dawns on these people that the rest of society is not going to shell out for this vision, and Nigel concocts paranoid fantasies about deep and sinister forces that are thwarting the Will of the People. It’s the bankers. It’s the oil companies. (Monsanto and Esso were especially singled out.) It’s the CIA. It’s the Religious Right in America. It’s multinational corporations. It’s the Tories. It’s “powerful special interest groups,” that wonderful catch-all.

“It wouldn’t be hard to finance…” Oh sure.

They believe there are other folks (called “businesses”) with simply bags of money, who should be made to do the right thing. Conveniently, the people in the sinister forces are also those with the supposed bags of money, so it all works out in a circle of perfect justice. The other appeal is to daily pocket change: “If we all just gave the price of one used bicycle tyre every day…” But seeing as how Fiona is not going to come around in person to collect the price of a tyre on any day, the plan is of course that the government will collect this money from us in taxes, and then be told (by Nigel) how to spend it on Good Stuff.

At this point they also get to compare their Good Stuff with Bad Stuff the government is currently spending money on. “We spend £8 billion every year on slaughtering transgendered people in Leeds. Couldn’t some of that money have been used for orphaned wombats?” In the UK they use a whole menu of Bad Stuff to contrast with the Nobler Investments. In the US the Bad Stuff always involves either of two evils: money for things military or kickbacks to big corporate fatcats. And once you’ve characterized the government in this way, Fatcats 1 trillion, Wombats 0, then you go around forever with this picture in your head: guys in suits chuckling evilly while they give money away to other guys with uniforms or other guys with cigars while baby wombats shiver at dusk in the cold at Christmas, a tin cup in front of them with a few coins. There’ll be posters of wombats with sad eyes, ragged scarves about their necks…
Admit it! Admit it! You felt bad for that wombat just then, and gave an empathic shudder, didn’t you? Get a grip. Sammy Squirrel is a story. There are no real wombats begging on the streets of Boston. Or London.

Fiona very earnestly and with heaving bosom worries what Frankenfoods will do to children. That there is a real answer to that question (Deaths from organic foods: thousands. Deaths from Frankenfoods: zero) does not matter. A good society would not even contemplate the risks she can imagine. “What kind of country would endanger its children…” (Not that Fiona has any herself, mind you).
Also, you get to call other people barbaric, which you don’t get to do in many other places.

1 comment:

dilys said...

I admire your way of thinking, and made a little note of that over at my place. With a picture.