Saturday, 10 January 2015

Emerging Tyrant

The Metamorphosis of the Liberal Secular State

In his book, The Abolition of Liberty Peter Hitchens makes some interesting observations about the origin of the police force and how it has changed radically in the modern era.  But these changes have not occurred in a vacuum.  They reflect a religious and philosophical sea-change amongst the British people (which has been mirrored in the Antipodes as well).

The biggest watershed involves the doctrine of morality--specifically, where morals reside and who is responsible for acting and living moral, ethical lives.  He writes:
The old, pre-1960's law, based on unchanging moral codes, assumes that conscience is individual rather than social, that man can improve himself by work and free will.  It assumes that he can refrain from committing crime through self-control and, if that fails, can be deterred from repeating it by exemplary punishment.  If these things are true, then man does not need to rely on his rulers for a better life.  This is why a belief in self-reliance, self-control and conscience is now the great heresy.  ( Peter Hitchens, The Abolition of Liberty: the Decline of Order and Justice in England (London: Atlantic Books, 2003),   p. 32f.]
Where does evil reside?
  In Christian Great Britain (and the Christian West, in general) evil resided in every human heart, and it was the responsibility of every human being to suppress and control his sinful inclinations in society at large.  But as the West, under the influence of the Enlightenment, jettisoned the Christian faith, the doctrines of socialism gradually took comprehensive control of the community.  The state, representing mankind in the abstract, increasingly took responsibility for eliminating crime. Evil came to be seen as residing in "social conditions", the air and general atmosphere, rather than in human souls. The focus came to be upon the One, not the Many.
Those who believe in this religion of government must design society, as we have, on the assumption that goodness is imposed from above by the wise generosity of the elite state.  They will be guided by the belief that, without such wisdom and generosity, people will naturally behave badly.  Implicit in this creed--a sort of socialist version of original sin--is the belief that everyone who can do bad deeds will do bad deeds unless he has the correct housing, income and health care. . . . To help people overcome their sinful state, they need subsidies, handouts, counselling, intervention from social workers, help and treatment.  They have no vice or virtue of their own and cannot be expected to behave well unless they are looked after.  The elite state has taken all virtue upon itself.  Deterrence and punishment are therefore not merely cruel but wrong.  [Ibid., p. 32.]
Sound familiar?  But, here is the thing:  the welfare state always trends toward the authoritarian state.  The same elites which hector so incessantly about helping the "degenerate classes" by providing for them, lifting them out of poverty to a state of grace by providing health, welfare, and education services for them, will eventually begin to to demand greater state powers, surveillance, policing, punishment, intervention and imprisonment.  In other words, the socialist state always morphs into the punitive state.  Hitchens explains why this transformation is inevitable.
By sucking all personal responsibility out of the population, government actually does the opposite of what socialism claims and hopes to do.  It creates a society of endemic crime which must be unceasingly placated by welfare.  If an ungrateful people persist in their violence and dishonesty despite the elite's goodness towards them, it has nothing left with which to control them (and asserts its goodness) except external force and fear.  This requires the weapons of the strong state, an armed and obedient gendarmerie separate from the people and owing its allegiance directly to the state, with great powers of arrest, search, interrogation, investigation and detention. [Hitchens, op cit., p. 33]
The state which takes all good to itself and sees itself as Messiah, making all subjects and citizens good by  changing the socio-economic environment of all, will inevitably become the Leviathan state which oppresses with external force and fear. It is no accident that the biggest steps towards the authoritarian unaccountable state have occurred under left-wing governments (we use the term to refer to Labour administrations).

In the United Kingdom it has been the Wilson, Blair, and Brown administrations which drastically changed the role of the police from one which took its authority from the people and the communities they served, to a force which answered to the State.  In doing the bidding of the State, answering primarily to the Prime Minister and his Cabinet (rather than answering to the communities they served as they had formerly), the police, under the patronage of their political masters, sought and were granted ever greater powers by  compliant Parliaments. 

In New Zealand, it is no accident or quirk of history that the last Labour Prime Minister, Helen Clark deliberately manipulated and connived to make the NZ Police subject to more direct control from the Prime Minister's office. She was following the British precedent.  The Tuhoe raids were a manifestation of new statist policing, as engineered by Clark.  It is positive that this trend towards a police-state has been arrested and reversed to a degree by the current government.  It is also positive that the police have now formally apologized to Tuhoe for their "mistakes".  By the police apologizing, the historical reality of the police force answering first to the public and their communities has been re-asserted. 

Not that Right wing governments are exempt from making similar attacks upon the liberties of the citizens.  They tend to follow along and build upon the blueprints of Labour administrations. Their secularism and socialism merely seek to keep a respectful distance from the more radical Left.  As long as the mini-skirt is just a centimetre longer than the tart on the high street, august "conservative" or "right wing" respectability can be maintained.  At least that is how the Centre Right mind usually rationalises its fast-following of the Left's authoritarianism, even while congratulating itself on its "conservatism". 

The longer end-game is not hard to predict.  Doubling down on folly is the only option available.  There are no other options in the hidebound, ideological view of secular humanism.
Although social democracy has failed to abolish or even reduce crime and wrongdoing, despite decades of trying to do so, it cannot accept that its ideas are wrong and have failed.  The suggestion that socialist reforms might actually increase crime by undermining morality is impossible for the left to accept.  Instead, it insists that it has failed because it has not yet gone far enough, and so demands yet more taxation, yet more spending, yet more social workers, yet more treatment.  Forced to admit that crime, disorder and bad behaviour have still not responded to this treatment, it reaches increasingly for the crude bludgeons of authoritarian rule, curfews, surveillance, confiscations, limitations on the liberties of all to control the license of the criminal few.  Taken much further than it has already been, this idea will lead to the destruction of personal freedom for all but a very few powerful or rich people.  [Ibid., p. 33.]
Granted all of this seems pretty bleak.  And it is, in the immediate term.  But we are not downhearted at all.  The Lord Jesus Christ is greater than any self-important, privileged elite and its puppets, alll enslaved to the secular idolatry of socialism.  It has ever been His way to give rebellious cultures just enough rope by which to hang themselves.  And then, it pleases Him to point out, in contrast to the hell on earth Unbelief has created, His yoke is easy and His burden is light, for any and all who renounce their faith in the state and, instead, come to Him.

The rebuilding of Christendom will commence with an much greater determination not to go down the wretched road of Unbelief again.  The idol of secular humanism will lie broke in the Temple of Enlightenment.

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