Tuesday, 16 November 2010

The Big Society (or a Bullingdon Club Conception of ‘Anarchism’) by Laurens Otter

Recently, a young Muslim woman was tried for attempted murder; she had violently attacked an MP who ardently supported the invasion of Iraq (knowing it to be illegal under International Law) and, not understanding why he had not been punished in any way for sanctioning the deaths of tens of thousands of innocent civilians, she took matters into her own hands.

No doubt her methods were not the most well chosen but anyone who examines her motives and general inspiration must see how closely they match the ‘Big Society’ ideal as preached by the Government.

Curiously, however, the Prime Minister did not dispatch the Attorney General (nor even members of his department) to the court to plead the woman’s case - to point out that she was a volunteer, acting to redress an unpunished crime in the public interest. Indeed, whilst the Attorney General might have argued in court that, in a country that has (at popular demand) abolished the death penalty, this woman should have confined herself to some lesser sanction, there can be no argument that she was acting in the spirit of the Big Society as it has thus far been outlined.

One may deduce, of course, that there is an unstated premise of the Cameron Big Society theory, i.e. that only such ‘voluntary acts’ and ‘local initiatives’ that support the Establishment and reinforce the existing class structure (or which meliorate the evils it creates without inconveniencing the elite) are to be applauded. In fact, one only has to look at the general context of the theory to see that it can only be advocated by Tories on the basis of such a premise.

If it were not so, unofficial strikes against injustice would be applauded. The Government would be giving grants to the students now protesting against their policies. And the peace movement, who have for years opposed war with only the resources available via their own pockets or appeals, would not be in such a position. Do the military hold a coffee morning every time they need a new tank? If Cameron meant his Big Society - without that unspoken Tory premise - he would have already moved to redress this disparity.

So, the Big Society cannot mean volunteering and local initiatives in order to attain a society of liberty and equality. Despite all the talk of decentralisation, there is to be a highly centralised decision-making process to determine what does and does not constitute good local initiatives and, as the criteria will never be spelled out, they cannot be debated, so the elite will decide with no popular discussion of any real sincerity.

The published arguments for the Big Society might have been purloined from anarchism but the arguments are used to cover Bullingdon Club elitist prejudices and those who know anything of the actions of this club’s membership may doubt whether a failure to support the Muslim woman was even based of any particular dislike of her methods.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I really don't want to get into a discussion over this article, because there's so much wrong with it that it could never be fixed. Anyway, here's a comment I made about it, that I posted on Facebook:

seems a little hysterical.. also shows a profound misunderstanding relating to the separation of judiciary and parliament and executive. if crimes are committed, they tend to be prosecuted, tried and punished, by the judiciary, according to its interpretation of those laws proposed by the executive and subsequently passed by parliament. the violence in the protests and the violence towards stephen timms is treated by the system in the same way, rightly separately from any rhetoric from the government. and if cameron had sent anyone in, i think he'd have had to rethink the tenability of his position.

but.. despite that, i'm not sure whether the hypocrisy that the article is trying to expose exists, and even if it does, whether it would therefore be arguing for or against the "big society" (whatever it takes that to mean). why should anyone support a knife-wielding murderess? indeed, how far can we interpret the "big society" from an anarchist perspective? i can see how the local and distributed self-organisation that seems to be the defining characteristic of the big society could be seen as somewhat anarchist, to the extent that it allows spontaneous groups of individuals increased freedoms from the state, but that self-organisation and its supposed concomitant freedoms are only granted to enable a more effective state, and, naturally, have to function by consensus or democracy or meritocracy (or whatever), and have to follow the law; whether or not the law is in part influenced by those groups. i don't really see how one woman acting individually and maliciously falls into that system.

i probably took that a bit too seriously, but i didn't take it anywhere near as seriously as its author; which, i believe, justifies the lengthiness of my response..