Seismic rifts

On morality through analogy, and making Dudley shake.

Patrick West

Patrick West

Topics Politics

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  • Morality through analogy

In recent weeks there have been arguments as to whether President George W Bush or Saddam Hussein is ‘more like Hitler’. But now it transpires from Sunday’s countryside march in London that, actually, Tony Blair is our very own Führer.

Spotted at the ‘Liberty and Livelihood’ demo were numerous banners comparing our prime minister to the Third Reich’s own – although there were others comparing Blair to Robert Mugabe.

Analogy is always a seductive tactic. Rather than having to argue your case point by point, a one-sentence comparison can be more emotive and memorable. Alas, cheap sloganeering is the very stuff of mass protests – the mob at its most articulate. This weekend’s anti-war protest will see no better, with Bush once again regaining top spot in the ‘he’s just like Adolf Hitler’ charts.

Yet Prince Charles’ remarks remind us of another voguish analogical device. Compare your predicament to that of ‘gays and blacks’ and, ergo, you are a wrongfully oppressed minority. Just as Hitler analogies cheapen the fate of the Second World War’s 50million dead, this kind of comparison belittles the genuine discrimination that people have faced on account of their skin colour or sex. Even comparing Blair to the tyrant of Zimbabwe is flippant and myopic.

It is often said that society has lost faith in the capacity of both revealed religion and humanism to provide it with moral reference points. It seems that analogy has filled the vacuum.

So, to decide whether something is good or bad in certain circumstances, follow three guidelines.

  • If you want to go to war on the pretext of humanitarianism, refer to the Holocaust. Repeat: ‘never again’, show pictures of emaciated concentration camp victims, accuse your detractors of somehow being in favour of genocide.

  • If you want to start or prevent a war of self-defence, accuse a world leader of being like Hitler. For the pro-mob, repeat ‘appeasement didn’t work in 1939’. For the anti-mob, repeat ‘we must stop this power-crazed warmonger, just like we did in 1945’.

  • If you want special treatment from the state, repeat that you are being treated like gays and blacks. If this doesn’t work, in a slightly louder voice, say your human rights are being violated. If all else fails, throw a tantrum.
    • Attack of the mendicants

    Naturally, blacks and gays have been angry that yokels and posh people in tweed have been trying to muscle in on their turf.

    Trevor Phillips, chairman of the Greater London Assembly, could not believe the Prince of Wales said something so ‘offensive and insulting’. Tristan Reid-Smith, editor of the Pink Paper, wailed: ‘I don’t understand why he believes that black people and gays aren’t treated badly: it’s pretty clear that we are.’

    They have a point. According to Guardian estimates, the rural population receives about £7.5billion in subsidies whereas ethnic minorities only receive about £1billion in extra funding, with the gay population receiving an ‘insignificant’ amount of state support. Note the parsimonious approach to the issue. Of course people are so quick to fend off aspiring victims when government funds are at stake.

    The quest for victimhood and hard cash are intertwined. This unappealing combination is called mendicancy. Although those who demonstrated for rural issues do have some genuine grievances, it is depressing that beggars’ cant and the language of passive dependency is seemingly infecting all sections of society.

    While racism and homophobia are wrong, it is also lamentable that a political system, though lumping together individuals into mutually competitive minorities, has turned them into brattish infants, squealing to daddy that they’re not getting as much pocket money as the other.

    It is also deeply offensive to farmers in Zimbabwe.

    • Tough on earthquakes, tough on the causes of earthquakes

    Reaction to this week’s earthquake in the West Midlands has been mixed.

    While Timothy McNigh of the Conservative party pointed the finger of blame at Brussels, citing the metrication of the Richter scale as the root cause, Allegra Poseidon, speaking for the New Labour government, was in no doubt that ’18 years or Tory neglect in this country’s tectonic infrastructure’ was responsible.

    ‘This government has always been tough on earthquakes’, she continued, ‘and in these horrific circumstances, we have agreed to implement a “name-and-shame” programme on convicted earthquakes stalking the land’.

    This stringent measure is in response to an incident in Basildon, when a baying anti-seismic mob attacked a local Quaker by mistake. Radio 2 has also been asked to adjust its playlist, with songs such as Shakin’ All Over by Johnny Kidd and the Pirates and the Beach Boys’ Good Vibrations deemed inappropriate at such a sensitive time.

    Meanwhile, Michael Nietzsche, Green Party Spokesthing for the Environment and Healing, writes in this week’s Dudley Evening Afterbirth: ‘Naturally, at this testing time, our hearts and minds are all with the good people of Dudley. No words of condolence can truly convey our abject and wholehearted sympathy.

    ‘Nonetheless, we mustn’t shirk from our responsibility. This was an accident waiting to happen. For too long, in his arrogant belief in “science” and blind adherence to “industry”, Man has been pumping gravitons into the Earth’s crust. That an earthquake should strike now, is no surprise. It is a wake-up call.

    ‘Nature has been ravished, and now She has exacted her revenge. All bow down to Gaia, the wondrous Goddess of Nature! She is a cruel but fair mother: indulgent when praised for her beauty, quick to smite when her sensibilities have been offended. Pray, placate her with bounteous gifts! Marvel at her lusty bosom! Drink deep from her cup. Drink deep, humble people of Dudley.…’

    An Elton John cover version of Shakin’ Stevens’s 1981 hit, This Ole House, is released on Monday. All royalties will go to the Dudley Earthquake We’re Just Like Gays and Blacks Relief Fund.

    Patrick West is the author of Conspicuous Compassion: Why Sometimes it Really is Cruel to be Kind, Civitas, 2004. Buy this book from Amazon (UK).

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    Topics Politics


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