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“Change threatens, and its possibility creates frightened, angry people*…

 

Brexit

 

Ferdinand Mount has for years been a voice of the Tory establishment; he was described thusly by the (conservative) Telegraph:

Ferdinand Mount is a baronet who prefers not to use his title, a former nanny to the children of American millionaires who later headed Margaret Thatcher’s Downing Street Policy Unit, the most scrupulously intelligent man ever to be appointed as an editor by Rupert Murdoch, the nephew of Anthony Powell, and himself the author of a sequence of novels, ‘A Chronicle of Modern Twilight’, cherished by all those who like their fiction to be amusing, elegant and expletive-free.

So his thoughts on Brexit and the political situation in Britain are especially tangy:

Yes, this is a right-wing coup. It is duplicitous or self-deceiving to pretend that British politics is still proceeding more or less as normal. We are told that it is ‘hysterical’ to argue that Boris Johnson’s regime is in any way comparable to the nationalist dictatorships of yesterday or today. If this is a temptation, I shall happily succumb to it as a patriotic duty. By every standard of measurement, the Conservative Party has been transformed into Britain’s own BJP. ‘Optimism with a hint of menace’ was how the Sunday Times approvingly described Johnson’s first days in power – pretty much the way you might describe the first hundred days of Narendra Modi, or Donald Trump, or Benito Mussolini. Yes, he has come to power by strictly constitutional means. So did they all. It is how they govern when they get there that counts.

First, there was the brutality of the cabinet cull. Macmillan’s Night of the Long Knives pales by comparison, as do Margaret Thatcher’s most far-reaching reshuffles. Both Supermac and Thatcher took care to include up and coming ministers from all wings of the party. Johnson has included only yes-people, or placemen who have vowed omertà in advance. His rhetoric has already assumed a strongman strut. He tears up prepared speeches in favour of sunlit-uplands rants peppered with sentimental appeals to ‘the will of the people’. Implicit in this waffle is a barely concealed contempt for the judiciary and for Parliament. In his two spells in the Commons, Johnson has never bothered to shine, or indeed even to turn up much. His most significant promotion was that of Dominic Raab as foreign secretary, the only man to have issued a veiled threat to prorogue Parliament to get his gang’s way.

We are already beginning to take for granted Johnson’s abusive tone towards international institutions and foreign leaders, except those like Donald Trump who talk the same mixture of bluster and treacle. At home, we are promised more mega-bridges and bonanza buses, the sorts of project with which dictators always like to dazzle the plebs. Here, the author of Boris Island Airport and the garden bridge is at least staying true to form.

What still puzzles some people is that so many old-fashioned Tories should have fallen for such a seedy, treacherous chancer. In fact, I think Johnson has succeeded because of his amorality, not despite it. The transgressive sayer of the unsayable breaks through the carapace of conventional politics with a mixture of humour and vituperation, slang and high-flown rhodomontade. Clowning is part of the act for the leader who wants to reach beyond good and evil in the fashion Nietzsche recommended. A cartoon Superman? Yes, but they all are. See Charlie Chaplin, passim.

How long will he last – five weeks, five years? I have no idea. All I can say is what I see. And it is not a pretty sight. Our new skipper has consistently admitted that he would love to be prime minister ‘if the ball came loose from the back of the scrum’. But that isn’t what happened. He collapsed the scrum, deliberately and repeatedly, and we are all now sprawling in the mud.

From The London Review of Books‘ “How Bad Can It Get– Reflections on the State We’re In.”

Pair with this argument– rooted in the work of psychologist Karen Stenner, described in 2005 book The Authoritarian Dynamic by (a libertarian, not a Democrat, and certainly not a progressive) arguing that it’s “authoritarian fear of difference” that best explains the intolerance, often manifesting as nationalism, sweeping the Republican Party: “What Ails the Right Isn’t (Just) Racism.”  (And, on a similar note, this.)

{Photo above: source]

* “Change threatens, and its possibility creates frightened, angry people. They are found in their purest essence on the extreme right, but in all of us there is some fear of process, of change.”
Carl R. Rogers

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As we brace for more bluster, we might recall that it was on this date in 1961 that the German Democratic Republic (GDR, East Germany) began construction of the Berlin Wall, a guarded concrete barrier that physically and ideologically divided Berlin from 1961 to 1989.

267px-Berlinermauer

View from the West Berlin side of graffiti art on the Wall in 1986

source

 

Written by LW

August 13, 2019 at 1:01 am

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