When we talk about justice in a political context, we do not merely mean the fair administration and interpretation of the law. Political justice is about finding the best form of government to nurture society’s improvement, the safety of its citizens and the representation of its electors. I myself am increasingly coming around to the opinion that neither our state nor our politicians who govern it have any kind of justice in mind whatsoever, or that if they do, then it is a deeply misguided interpretation of justice.
For a conservative to stand before the public and engage in soapbox oratory about the decline and fall of Western moral codes, traditions and social conventions is nothing new, but what I hope to offer today is something a little different. Although the process has been going on for much longer, the past year has demonstrated in particular how attitudes are now on the move for definite, and not necessarily for the betterment of society.
At the end of the First World War, the German historian Oswald Spengler published The Decline of the West. The book was incredibly popular, and in the wake of such a catastrophic conflict his prediction of a future marked by a neurotically self-interested public so caught up in their own emotions that they allow tyranny to flourish around them was lapped up eagerly. But following the Second World War and the spirit of optimism which accompanied projects like the declaration of human rights and the United Nations, interest in pessimists like Spengler died away.
However Spengler, though much of his argument was tied up in rhetorical logic and exaggerated speculations, managed to convey a grain of truth.
Before the 20th century, constitutional governments founded upon the concept of society as an organic body, made up of individuals but also reliant upon a self-regulating moral community were commonly accepted as the only rational form of government, such as was embodied in the original constitution of the United States and centuries-old traditions of English Common Law.
Spengler warned that by the year 2000, democracy would have moved away from reason, and turned instead to the manipulation of the voting masses, with individuals informally swayed from one opinion to another with populist gimmicks rather than tangible political ideas, and the people themselves, sated by these gimmicks, would not just sit idly by, but actively encourage those in power to remove their age-old rights. A populist successor to “Caesar” would rise in the West, with war in heart and the destruction of civilisation his goal.
It seems terrifying, almost like fiction, but to look at the world today, to look at our own country is to see some of Spengler’s prophecies manifest themselves as truth.
Grenfell Tower was a tragedy, and it was heartbreaking to see that a country with supposedly some of the best health and safety standards in the world should fail its people in such a way, but the conflagration of accusation and anger that has grown around it seems set to rival the tragedy itself.
Whilst I can understand the anger of many residents, especially given the speed at which the government had reacted to the crisis, their calls for the government to “arrest people”, claims from the left that Grenfell Tower was an opportunity to “kill poor people” and that the UK Government “does not care” about poor people is not merely libellous, but threatening to our values.
When the day comes that the government begins “arresting people” at random in response to a crisis, merely to appease angry residents, it shall be a day of great anger for those who respect the right to fair hearings, inquests, trials and generally proper conduct in a just societies.
Meanwhile, the denial of the parents right to decide on treatment for their own son (Charlie Gard) represents the increasing power of the state. The judiciary exists to interpret the law and prosecute criminals, not to mentally torture parents who respect the value of human life.
Justine Greening’s plans to change the law to allow individuals to change their gender without the consent of a doctor, and the wider consultation of LGBT people which seems set to be a platform by which the government may continue to curtail our right to free speech against certain social groups, represents the government’s loss of interest in the citizenry at large, in true community of the nation rather than pandering to micro-groups who legally hold the same fair and just rights as the rest of us.
The Anglican Church also recently voted to offer “special services” for transgender people as a move to make Christianity more inclusive. Christianity’s teachings about gender and sexuality aside, this contradicts the very ethos of Christianity. It is a religion of love, forgiveness and inclusivity, and surely to separate a certain group from the rest of the Church is contradictory to that mission? For the sake of liberalism, it seems that the established Church has opted for yet more apostasy.
Real social justice, and I don’t mean the crazed morality of liberation espoused by the left, is about community, but it is also about rational discussion of what is morally right. The hard truth is that we must choose either liberty or equality: it is a falsehood to say that we can have both.
Increasingly our governments are choosing the unrealisable goal of egalitarianism, and in so doing are restricting the liberty which our ancestors fought so hard to secure for us. A perverse form of freedom, the “freedom to” something is taking hold.
Freedom has always been about being “free from” x. So for instance, we may have a right to the “freedom from slavery” or the “freedom from attack upon our person or property” but what does not exist, as modern leftist dogma would have us believe, is the “freedom to own a house”, the “freedom to restrict the speech of others”.
What most worries me is that, with these changes in the law and as the government panders increasingly to dangerous and irrational ideas, the attitude of the people of Europe is changing.
Law is a powerful tool, since no matter how much resistance is offered to a new law, if the government stands, and the law too stands, opinion will change with it over time as the new law becomes “normal”. Being normal, however, does not make something objectively “right”.
Those of us who believe in traditional, rational political justice must speak up, and ultimately seek to influence the law which threatens to change the social makeup of Europe, and the rights of its citizens forever.
I am not saying that society will collapse entirely, like Spengler did, but what seems certainly possible is that without traditional morality, European culture certainly won’t flourish.
The traditional conservative attitude has always been to encourage a sober pause for thought, but to protect the rights and freedoms that we deserve, society itself must be prepared to change, and not necessarily in the direction it wants to.