Melanie Phillips on human rights oppression

In the forum, a reader draws attention to a recent piece by Melanie Phillips on “The coercive culture of human rights”. The piece was prompted by the release of a UK government White Paper (*.pdf format) about proposed comprehensive administrative arrangements for enforcing equality, rooting out discrimination, and generally doing what has to be done to make equality and human rights “core values” of UK society.

Miss Phillips is one of the few mainstream journalists to note that the effort involves compulsory reconstruction of things that are as fundamental as understandings of social and individual identity, and as such is patently totalitarian. She’s begun to develop ways to articulate what’s wrong with it, and I hope she continues her efforts. As they stand, though, her views somewhat echo the standard conservative line that PC and the like are caused by weird extremists doing weird things. When something becomes as entrenched and powerful as the equality industry I think it’s more to the point to understand its rationality than its irrationality. As a functional matter, PC and the rest of it are an effort to turn the whole of society into a single economic structure in which no differentiations or social authorities are permitted that are not directly subservient to the power, efficiency and technical rationality of the structure itself. As such, it’s surely insane in the largest sense, but it’s powerful because it follows well-established understandings of what it is to be rational and what good government should do, and so can’t simply be dismissed as shallow, extreme, oppressive, undemocratic and so on.

3 thoughts on “Melanie Phillips on human rights oppression”

  1. It is always more comforting
    It is always more comforting to think that the most objectionable things in the world are bizarre manifestations of a troublesome few. If we could just contain these troublesome and irrational elites, all would be well again.

    For example, it is common to blame judges and trial lawyers for the ridiculous verdicts and huge awards in malpractice and other civil tort cases. But almost every one of these awards is made by a jury. “We have met the enemy, and they are us.” Having an elite few to blame, and then making their motives sound inexplicable, is perhaps more comforting than realizing that your friendly fellow citizen down the street is ready to play neo-Marxist Robin Hood if he gets seated on a jury. Such a realization does not comport with the school of perpetual optimism and happy talk of popular conservatives such as Rush Limbaugh. If we blame it all on the elite leftist nut cases, we can go on cheerfully thinking of our fellow citizens as being the kind of good, bedrock Main Street conservatives that this country was founded on and still make it great, etc.

  2. Jim,

    I am an Englishman, a

    I am an Englishman, a regular visitor to Mel’s blog and a serial commenter on other Brit blogs. For reasons I will leave you to work out for yourself, my subject matter tends to be the cultural marxism of the left and immigration in Britain since 1948.

    I don’t know that I entirely agree with your take on PC, Jim. To my mind it is, along with identity politics, mass imigration, gender politics and gay rights, a dynamic aimed at creating a new socialist man. I don’t think power or left-authoritarianism are the end-purpose but an necessary condition for progress along the way. The idea is to change the people once and for all time, and has its roots in the post-WW2 glory days of the New Left, their development of Culture Studies and the later work of the Birmingham School under Stuart Hall.

    Of course, that’s only my view and there plenty of room for others. Probably the most important as far as the UK is concerned is to be found at (Dr Gabb’s excellent Free Life Commentaries nos.113 and 114).

    You run a couple of great resources, Jim. I am much obliged to you for your effort.

  3. Are the differences between
    Are the differences between my view and Guessedworker’s so great?

    “New Socialist Man” sounds like the name for a new sort of human being perfectly adapted to the comprehensive unification of all human life on rational economic lines. But that’s just what I think current movements aim at. I suppose the difference is that G’s saying that the point is to create that kind of human (or post-human) being as a sort of end in itself. I’m more inclined to say that if the point is to reduce humanity to something that fits into a precisely definable system then it must be the system that people like.

    I didn’t mean to say though that left authoritarianism was the ultimate goal, and agree that most fundamentally it’s a means. In the end it seems to me it’s not really the system itself that people have bought into but the conception of rationality and the world that the system stands for—man as the measure, man’s knowledge as the standard of reality, and man’s desires and know-how as the standard for what’s good. Given all that, the construction of a comprehensive system embracing absolutely everything that acts as a sort of machine giving everyone what he wants as evenly as possible becomes the rational ultimate goal of human existence. To construct that machine, and make it efficient and perspicuously rational, means redesigning and retooling its most important parts—human beings.

    [Thanks for the comment, by the way, and it’s interesting to find out that MP is “Mel.”]


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