Keeping the lid on late liberal society

Michael Blowhard points to a recent instance of how PC is playing out in Britain: a young American woman is assaulted for 15 minutes on a crowded tube platform in London by a couple of black punks. “The assault and abuse was both physically violent and sexual in nature.” Nobody does much of anything and the police could hardly care less.

Commenters on the woman’s weblog with experience of present-day Britain were unanimous that ordinary self-defense, let alone intervening in a dispute involving others, is now treated as a very serious crime there, so people are afraid to respond to outrages. Meanwhile, Boris Johnson recounts how a British Airways stewardess asked him to move to a different seat on an airplane because “we have very strict rules … that a man cannot sit with children.” (Admittedly, the rule was waived when he convinced the lady the children in question were his own.) Again commenters, not to mention other commentators, vehemently supported Johnson’s account as representative.

The woman posted the perp’s photo online, and for another blogger and her commenters posting the picture was the truly alarming feature of the situation. It created the spectre that ordinary citizens might get involved in dealing with crime, and if you let people post pictures pretty soon there will be lynchings. As one commenter said, “Some people don’t like due process. Some people are looking for any excuse to commit violence.”

Meanwhile, a Tory MP said in an email to a constituent that there are more black than white criminals. A London newspaper called the statement an “outburst” that would “embarrass Tory leader David Cameron, who is desperately trying to ditch his party’s ‘nasty’ image.” Denis MacShane, an ex-Labour minister, said that the incident “showed the Tories still had a long way to go … This is alarming new evidence of the deep-rooted Tory failure to understand we don’t make remarks about people of different races without fuelling prejudices in the general population.”

What could all this mean? When craziness is formalized as a philosophy of government, and shrugs off all criticism and considers itself indisputably correct, it must be based on something quite fundamental. And in fact the current madness is based directly on modern understandings of reason, knowledge and the nature of man:

  1. Reason includes only things that can be made completely clear, explicit, public and demonstrable.
  2. If follows that knowledge includes only expert knowledge. Since they don’t have expert knowledge, ordinary people don’t know anything and can’t be relied on to act rationally.
  3. Human life is a matter of desire and attempts to satisfy desire. Since knowledge is only expert knowledge, it follows that without without expert supervision and control human action becomes a matter of blind impulse and fantasy. Ordinary people are therefore dangerous, and they have to be watched closely and can’t be allowed to do anything that suggests the use of force.

A clear line of reasoning that leads to outrageous results rests on presuppositions that should be rejected. To some extent, though, a fundamental philosophy creates as well as misrepresents reality. If Hobbes says that the basic human reality is that any man can kill any other man, and Locke says that the point of social life is getting stuff and holding on to it, then maybe accepting those views means that men eventually do become appetitive, mindless and violent, and it really does become necessary to put them under supervision. But still, quis custodiet ipsos custodies? And is it really necessary to treat all men as if they were the same as the punks who terrorized Jackie Danicki?

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