Saturday, 25 August 2018

Only a new moral vision can reunite Britain

It's the same the world over. Political leaders compete for victim status by dredging up ancient injustices, demanding reparation or restoration. It's the song of Hungarian and Polish ultra-nationalists, South Africa's ANC and all points between. South Africa is now the one to watch. President Cyril Ramaphosa believes South Africa will become unstable if the state does not expropriate land without compensation.

Addressing black commercial and emerging farmers at a gala dinner he said "If we do not address it‚ it is going to cause instability in our country. If there is any risk‚ it will be around the land issue. Many of you as farmers would like access to land. It is necessary that we should do this to give access to those among us that want to work the land‚ so that we can heal this festering wound of the past. The only way to heal that wound is to give land to our people".

We know how this goes. This ends with displaced white farmers, murders and the outcome is bankrupt farms, looted and and plundered, and shortly after the farms become derelict and produce nothing. And then it's always someone else's fault.

Debate in the West is also equally predictable. The left will write apologia for it while those on the right remark that under apartheid the white rulers could at least keep the light on and keep farms productive. They are right but then so are the left in that the apartheid regime was an instrument of oppression and economic exclusion. Not much of a choice is it? Racist subordination or the rule of violent fascist kleptocrats.

As ever the populists always go for the simplistic explanations. Right wing whites will say that the blacks are simply too primitive to run a country. I hate to say it but there is some truth in that. Or rather their politics is too primitive. South Africa is tribal as tribal gets and factional rivalry is no way to run a country. To successfully run a modern country it requires government to act in the common good rather than using the apparatus of state to enrich one's own tribe. 

Very often these populist measures are deflection. White farmers are scapegoated for the mismanagement and corruption of successive governments. Government does not function because tax collection is poor, paying tax for the ruling class is optional and enforcement of the law is practically non-existent.

You only need look at South African utilities to see why there is growing resentment. According to the Ridge Times, South Africa is facing six forms of electricity theft resulting in an average loss of up to R20 billion ($1.5 billion) per annum. The local publication states that bypassing of electric meters and consumers, mainly in informal settlements, illegally connecting themselves to the national grid are the two types of electricity theft most common in South Africa.

Vandalism of utility infrastructure, cable theft, the removal of oil from substations, the selling and use of illegal prepaid vouchers and non-payment of electricity tariffs are some of the factors characterised as electricity theft. Debt collection is poor and maintenance is substandard. Similarly South Africa is in a perpetual water crisis where we find out of date infrastructure, massive waste and supply unable to keep up with ever rising demand.

The problem with tribalism is that the style of governance is winner takes all. Once in power they feel no obligation to rule for the good of all. The most successful countries are those with lasting institutions that run impartially where there is a constitution that forbids the apparatus of state being used for political gain. This is actually why the UK and the USA are so successful. We view any abuse of the system as corruption and no politicians is above the law. 

The gradual erosion of such institutions is why the West is regressing. In the US we see increasing political tribalism largely thanks to identity politics and the victim-hood Olympics played by the American liberal left. It focuses on the grievances of groups rather than ideas held in common irrespective of faith, race and gender. Politics is the atomised along these separatist lines which then gives way censorship, the blaming of the other, and the need for "restorative justice" - which isn't justice at all. More often than not it's just legalised theft.

This is now deep set in US politics, particularly academia and media and depressingly these American fads tend to be contagious. The UK exhibits some of this same identity politics and Canada has apparently lost its marbles. If it takes root, the I expect we are only forty or fifty years away from our utilities being in a similar state to  that of South Africa. It really depends on the resilience of our institutions, all of which are facing multiple stresses. 

As to how we arrest the decline we have to look at how we managed to transcend our own tribal instincts to begin with. This is why the story of the USA is so fascinating. America was built on a moral vision nurturing a common identity. Truth, justice and the American way! The land of freedom and opportunity. 

Several events in its recent history have battered that self-image, not least Vietnam and Iraq, both of which have left a scar on the American psyche and Western leftists have used the sins of the West to demonise patriotism. Using Hollywood as their instrument of subversion they have gradually undermined the sense of national confidence to the point where Western leftists welcome the destruction of the West and believe we deserve it. National suicide as an act of atonement.

This is not unique to the US either. The entire European Union was founded on this same bankrupt ideology, equating the rise of German fascism with nationalism, deriding any expression of patriotism and uncouth, parochial and small minded. This is very much the establishment consensus view, so prevalent that conservatives are afraid of their own shadow. 

The European Union has sought to replace national identity with a sense of European identity, with the ultimate aim of dissolving the nation state. To a point this has already happened. The EU is its own legal personality and where trade is concerned, the EU is a single customs entity, and is increasingly developing its own foreign policy to supplant those of member states. 

Being that Italy and Germany were responsible for the rise of Fascism and still bear the shame, its elites still uphold the view that expressions of national sovereignty are a threat to the peace. For obvious reasons Britain does not feel that same sense of responsibility. 

Having weakened the bonds of the United Kingdom with instruments such as regionalism and the funding and revival of regional languages the EU has brought the UK to the brink of balkanisation. It has made us smaller and more tribal. As Scottish and Welsh differences have been massaged we have seen a growing resurgence of English identity which is a relatively new thing. Separatism is growing across the continent. It would seem the old world is disintegrating.

Meanwhile, when we look the the far east we see a new energy in younger countries like Malaysia where we see a healthy nationalism used to unite the distinct tribes. There is a concerted effort to seed a sense of Malaysian identity so that it can overcome the tribal factionalism that has dominated its politics. If it succeeds it has a better chance of improving its civic governance.

Good government depends on effective and fair administration working in the common good seeking to mute the excesses of our tribal instincts. The best way to do this is through a unifying moral vision with the consent of its people. It is that fundamental lack of consent that explains the UK's turbulent relationship with the EU. Our elites have sought to replace our union, born of a shared history and common language, with an artificial one by stealth.

I have never known Britain more divided. The union of  the United Kingdom may not even survive the breakaway from the EU. Through devolution we have nurtured divisions and we cannot discount the malign influence of Twitter in exacerbating tribal identity politics. We are atomised in every imaginable way and our communities are scattered to the winds. Our politics will only stabilise when we rediscover what unites us.

While the EU may massage our international pretensions the truth is that the nation state is the only effective arena for democratic politics. Attempts to subvert the nation state have created exactly the divisions the EU was invented to resolve. That fundamental breakdown of what binds us is ultimately the cause of our institutional decay. Brits may look at South Africa with a sense of superiority, but unless we can arrest the decline, South Africa is a sign of what is to come. 

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