Friday, 3 June 2016

The only way to safeguard rights is to win the argument

"I’d give up sovereignty so my rights as a European citizen are protected" says Hannah Fearne in the Independent. This is a logical inversion. Sovereignty is the only real protection of rights. Rights granted by a remote and technocratic elite can just as easily be revoked or superseded. Only those rights fought for and safeguarded by the people are ever truly safe.

Moreover, rights imposed from above are also regarded with suspicion. If they are not fought for and won they are not respected. If you haven't won the argument then you haven't changed attitudes. That's what the suffragettes did. That's what Rosa Parks did. They made us take a long hard look at ourselves. We will never go back now. But rights imposed over and above the people will always be viewed as an insult. An attempt to usurp.

Ms Fearne has it that "There is a common belief, particularly among those keen to leave the EU, that British society has now modernised to a point where enshrining women's and workers' rights in a European mandate is not only undesirable but unnecessary. That is a fallacy."

I happen to disagree. I believe there are inequalities being manufactured by the left for entirely political purposes which are harming the cause of feminism. I believe wage inequality is broadly reflective of an experience gap. I think the interventions to correct it will have the opposite effect. I think they will ultimately make mothers poorer. And I don't even see women as unequal. I believe in some sectors they have certain advantages which mean they can go further, faster. On balance it works out.

But let's suppose I am completely wrong and that Fearn is right. It is up to her to those who agree with her to win the argument. Instead of doing that, they seek to sabotage democracy so that we cannot challenge what is still very much up for debate. As bad as that is in its own right, it makes any further diktats even more hated. And it has consequences. In his observances of Donald Trump, Peter Hitchens lends us a clue.
The thing about Weimar, as far as one can see, is not that it ended precisely with the Nazis. That will never happen again. It was that nobody who lived in it really had any clue that it would finish so abruptly, or what was coming next, until, the very end. Nor did they grasp how much their own liberalism was resented and how swiftly and absolutely most of it would be undone in the reckoning that followed. Despite the myth of ultra-liberated 1920s Berlin, Weimar was in many ways a much more staid and conservative society than the ones we inhabit in post-Cold War Britain and the USA.
Sooner or later we will settle the Europe question. Maybe not in June, but probably within my lifetime. Nothing as unwholesome and unpopular as the EU is going to survive. And when we do chuck this vile regime out, the only rules and rights we will retain are those we own. Those we are agreed upon and those where the argument is settled. That's what forms the baseline in any ideas vacuum.

But supposing I am wrong and we end up lumbered with the EU forever. Resented rules will not be respected. And there are always loopholes. When it is found that the fads and fashions of the day are undermining rights and costing jobs, yet cannot be revoked, we will find ways around them. Right up to the point where any and all workers rights are viewed as something to work around. I think we are already there.

And I can't be alone in thinking the EU's experiment in Ukraine will fail. The imposition of gay rights and gay marriage on a deeply catholic society with an ultra far right that makes your teeth curl, the backlash will be swift and vengeful.

The only way to safeguard rights is to win the argument through the democratic process. The left want to take shortcuts. They do not respect that not everyone agrees with them and they would rather dispense with democracy than expose their ideas to public debate. That is why I fully expect for this grand project to fail. It is engineering only resentment.

What Hannah Fearn is actually saying is not that she doesn't trust the people. She is just unsure that she has won the argument. She hasn't. And those "rights" she would impose on us are not safe until she has. Consequently when we settle on this (and we will one day), when we have that bonfire of rights, hers will be the first into the fire. More to the point, democracy is at the root of all of our rights. If we dispense with the most basic of them, all the rest are utterly worthless.

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