In Defence of the Fence

7 - Banksy's Anarchist Rat (Credit- Shermozle, Wikipedia)

Kenneth Noronha, LLB (Law)

Here’s a sweeping, potentially controversial, and wholly amusing statement:  people who exist on political extremes do so only because they have no sense of perspective. No, the Tories aren’t all trying to steal your welfare to build estates made of gilded peasant children. By the same virtue, the Greens aren’t all attempting to replace actual medicine with homeopathy. Politics, doesn’t have to exist in the extremes.  But between anarchists and people who think fluorinated water and GM crops will kill all the Nature forever or those who comment about ‘all these bloody foreigners’, it certainly looks like we’re pretty close to the edge. Taking into account these facts, I’ve spent some damn good time thinking about it and I’ve come to the conclusion that I’ll probably be voting Tory come next year. It looks like my private school background has finally decided to rear its ugly, Armani-clad head.

I always thought of myself as liberal and left-wing. I will readily admit the term ‘champagne socialist’ is probably applicable to me on some level, though really I prefer Prosecco, it’s just a lot fresher. Does that really make my political views any less valid? François Hollande was criticised once for being a multimillionaire socialist – a hypocrite, obviously! If these people were actually socialists they would redistribute their income to everyone until perfect equality was achieved. They’re ivory tower liberals, eating their caviar whilst sobbing into €500 notes that garçon must later retrieve for dry-cleaning.

I want to address the inherent contradiction in the phrase “rich socialist”.   Immediate redistribution of income would be one of the stupidest things a politician that self-defines as ‘socialist’ could do. A handful of extra Euros- because let us be clear, that is what it would be if a small number of wealthy individuals divvied up their cash and spread it around- into every Frenchman’s pocket will not serve to advance and improve the lives of Joe Public any more than urinating in the general direction of a forest fire will serve to put it out.

But then apparently I’m not liberal and left-wing enough, really. I still stand with Labour with regards to welfare, or at least I appear to support Labour’s policy on welfare more than any other party’s, but evidently that’s not all I have to do. In one of the latest Student Union emails there was a link to a Facebook event called “The (A)nti-social Centre EVICTION RESISTANCE” and I don’t know what to think about this. Obviously governments should be responsible for their populace, and if there isn’t enough social housing available to allow each and every person who needs it the opportunity and ability to sleep well at night then there is an obvious problem. By the same merits, though, illegally occupying property and territory that one has no legal recourse or rights to seems to me to be morally wrong.

The argument in response to this is that ownership of property in general, and land in specific, is an artificial construction of a capitalism that should be abolished. For true equality and egalitarianism no man should own anything, but all things should be common property. I would point to the state of common property in some Dinwiddy kitchens as a reason to reconsider that idea in its entirety. Private ownership allows for private responsibility, because it is not possible to ensure that each individual in a community will be wholly and communally responsible.

Of course, the bracketed (A) in The (A)nti- Social Center obviously signifies this particular demonstration as an Anarchist movement. I could weigh up the pros and cons of a government-less state, or indeed of doing away with the idea of having a State at all. I could about how liberty and freedom would find ultimate expression, and how without an omnipresent hand of control over us we would be able to live without prejudice and ignore the barriers society currently placed on us that artificially create social strife. I would then, of course, point out that without a State we wouldn’t have running water or electricity or a functioning healthcare service, and that pure and total anarchy would allow people to run about stabbing people.  In my opinion this is a terrible idea because I rather enjoy being able to a) eventually use my law degree and b) have the rule of law exist to prevent me getting stabbed, that maybe doesn’t make this article a balanced news report but this isn’t a report.  I’ve been given a metaphorical soapbox on which to shout my opinions with ink into your eyes. Ink which would not have been printed onto paper without a State providing power to run printing presses. I like V for Vendetta as much as the next guy, and I say this as someone who has a hardcover copy of the graphic novel.  But really guys, anarchy is a terrible idea.  Public services and amenities are nice, laws are generally good, and society is a pretty cool thing.

But say you will disagree with me there as well. Say you want to go back to living closer to nature, to do away with the artificial chemicals that pollute us and that we should use natural cures, and that electricity and running water and heating have made us weak and indolent. Say you want to be free of the expectations of society and laws. That you make your own medicine out of organically sourced mangrove root extract. Well to begin with, everything is chemicals.  Aspirin is made out the bark of a willow tree and again, I return to the stabbing point. Control curbs the worst excesses of humanity, and having none of it at all wouldn’t be some utopian Shangri-La of peaceful harmonious existence.  It would be a friendly, or not-so-friendly competition of who has the biggest gun/knife/stick, where the winner gets to hoard all the remaining canned beans until the eventual end when the hot death of the universe sets in.

So no, I’m not a bleeding-heart extreme liberal. I’m not a right-wing crusader either. Occasionally I think fiscal responsibility and conservative economics are a positive thing. Other times, I know that the best way to fix a problem is to spend money – lots of it – to make sure that people have the rights they are owed, even if that is at the cost of a nice balance sheet. Sometimes, I think society in general could use a little slowing down and thought before change, and that a constant state of revolution might not be the best idea. But I don’t think that public demonstration and political activism isn’t worth the time, or that people with noble causes should keep silent. A touch of moderation and centrism is never a bad thing, as far as I can tell, but there is an overwhelmingly polarising culture where this reverse-elitism has flourished, where if you aren’t absolutely, entirely with us, (whoever the “us” is, given the ridiculous number of different definitions of “us” that exist) you’re against us. Well, as much as I’d love to join the club(s), I’ll stick to sitting on my particular fence. It’s nice up here.


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