Wednesday, 2 March 2016

The lost habit of defiance

Junior DVLA staff have been warned their personal Twitter and Facebook accounts will be monitored to ensure they do not say anything to back Brexit. It comes after Cabinet Secretary Sir Jeremy Heywood banned Civil Servants from sharing some Government papers with ministers campaigning to leave the EU.

But in an email seen by the Mirror, DVLA officials reminded staff that rules forcing Civil Servants to support the position of the government of the day also applies to them. And the diktat, distributed to all DVLA workers from top brass to desk staff, says the restrictions include "use of social media by civil servants in both their official and personal capacity".

While worrying in and of itself, I am more troubled by the reaction to it. On monday on the platform of Filton Abbey Wood (home of the MoD) I listened to a group of MoD staff talking about a similar memo, grumbling that they're not even supposed to mention Brexit on Facebook, to which the reaction was "it's a bit out of order really" - without much in the way of protest. 

And that is ultimately why I believe we are going to lose the referendum. Not because of the ban itself, but because Brits are out of the habit of defiance. We blithely do as we are told without question - obey signs, extinguish our cigarettes, pay what we are told to pay - when we are told to pay it. Collectively the word "no" has slipped from our political vocabulary. 

Here we are fighting for the right to say no to our government and yet the public couldn't be more bovine. We won't leave the EU because there is no inherent hunger for democracy. Somewhere between today and the poll tax riots we have lost our democratic spirit. We have become accustomed to political lies. They have become normalised and we don't bat so much as an eyelid. So much so that the prime minister can lie to the house over his bogus EU reforms and not a word is said by a single MP.

It strikes me that the EU has conquered Britain. We are not seeing a charged debate about our future standing as an independent nation. The arguments over leaving are less to do with the respective merits of each idea - as the administrative troubles in achieving independence. In the minds of only semi-enthused europhiles Independence is desirable but not worth the hassle. I suppose for there to be a demand for independence the public must first realise they have lost it - and secondly that it matters.

But if we are now back to that Victorian state where the bosses can dictate our politics outside of work - and we obey without protest, then we truly have regressed and we may as well resign ourselves to the fact that people are content with this state of democracy-free managerialism. And that really brings us back to this...

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