Are we Heading Back to the Abyss?
There is no doubt about it, political times have reached a new nadir.
If we look back over recent history we can see at least two major changes to the way people have been represented in government in the UK. Prior to the beginning of the nineteenth century if you didn’t have a financial stake in the state (meaning property) then you couldn’t vote. The franchise gradually widened during that century, but slowly, and almost without real consequence. This meant that the majority of the population had no representation in Parliament.
This situation was highlighted by Friedrich Engels in 1845 in his book entitled The Condition of the Working Class in England. This was followed by several pamphlets but the real shocker came in 1903 with the publication by the famous novelist, Jack London of his book The People of the Abyss. This vividly portrayed life in London’s East End at the turn of the century. The book is appallingly bleak. There are pictures of people who simply were unable to cope with the reality of their lives; people sharing not just rooms, but sharing the beds. After all, if you take it in turns you can get four people in one bed every day in six hour shifts.
This was life in the capital city of the then richest country on the planet. It was an appalling situation, and effectively gave rise to a change in the way political representation functioned in the UK.
It led to the founding of the Labour Party, which gradually made the Whigs redundant, and by 1918 when women also got the vote, the face of British politics was unrecognisable from the structures of the previous century.
We dont have a new abyss before us at the moment, but we do have a complete breakdown of politics, not just in this country, but across the world. In England we have had six prime ministers in as many years. In the USA we have a president who is suffering from alzheimer’s, and is still allowed to continue as head of state living in the White House. In the EU we have a whole raft of politicians acting as if they are completely brain-dead. The shenanigans are simply surreal.
Back in 1900, certainly in the UK, a class war created a desperate underclass that suffered living conditions which today would be unimaginable. These folk had no political representation, and so parliament effectively ignored them and their conditions.
The difference today is that various parliaments around the world are quite deliberately destroying living conditions in their countries in what appears to be an attempt to send living standards back to those last seen more than a hundred years ago.
Once upon a time there were Whigs and Conservatives in Parliament. A seismic change took place over the course of the first decades of the twentieth century leaving us with Conservatives and Labour. Note; the Labour party has effectively destroyed the Whigs.
If things continue as they are we will certainly see a resurgence of the Labour party for the simple reason that if circumstances push us back to those earlier days of poverty we will need a Labour party to act for those of us who are disadvantaged. Unfortunately the current Labour party seems to have no interest in helping to stop the return to hard times. In fact, the current opposition party presents no opposition at all. Labour representatives simply are not doing their job of opposing.
If, on the other hand, we can reverse the current situation, what is the Labour party supposed to represent? The workers? But most workers in the future will be machines. Is that the future role of the modern Labour party, to represent machines? Slightly odd, because currently machines dont have a vote. Should they? I cant imagine anyone would suggest that we are in a similar situation to 1900 when the working class had no vote. I can think of no realistic argument for machines getting the vote because they desperately need representation, so what is the Labour party left representing in the future?
The current Conservative party appears to be in a similar position. Who are they representing? It isn’t just me that wonders. They dont seem to have a clue either. They certainly aren’t representing their traditional base, the landed gentry, for the landed gentry are almost non-existent. Their newer base, the middle class, is being wiped out, or seriously disadvantaged. No-one is currently representing them at all.
The Labour party came to the assistance of the underclass that in the opening years of the twentieth century had no representation at all. If I look towards Westminster I can see no-one now representing me, or my friends and colleagues, or indeed anyone I meet. Putting it simply, this is a hopeless situation. We rapidly and radically need Reform. Both the current major parties in Westminster are redundant. They serve precisely no purpose, principles nor people at all.
Perhaps we need to go back to basics to see what a government is traditionally supposed to be.
I maintain that right now there is a misunderstanding of what government is even supposed to be about. Things weren't always that way. Let me suggest a start point which happens to be identical for both the UK and the USA.
In the UK let me take you back to the early nineteenth century and the Representation of the Peoples Act, which sets out a set of rules for the way the country is to be run by certain persons who are to be regarded as the representatives of the people who live in certain electoral divisions.
There have been several updates, and all the Bills are described as being about the representation of the general public or certain classes within the population. In 1918 for instance women were given the vote. But all the titles of these various Bills have one thing in common, they discuss the representation of the people. In short, the UK parliament is there to represent the people.
Has anybody spotted that things have changed? Not only has there been a change of perspective, but an assumption has developed that is precisely at variance with the descriptions of the various Acts of Parliament.
No matter where you look, or what document you peruse, or what speech you listen to today our representatives are consistently referred to as our leaders.
Let's get this straight. They are NOT our leaders, they are, by statutory definition, our representatives.
This may be regarded as a bit of nit-picking, but I maintain that the current misconception of what government is supposed to be leads to the complete mismanagement and manipulation of the forms put in place to govern a country.
As time goes on the whole concept of government as a method of control becomes more and more ingrained in the general consciousness and it is about time this pernicious creep in conception was stopped, and indeed reversed.
Exactly the same is supposed to be true in the USA. Doesn't that country have a government body known as the House of Representatives? Is that word "representatives" so difficult to understand? It certainly seems to be very easy to subvert the word to mean what the heck anyone chooses it to mean. Wouldn't it be a good idea to go back to basics and stop playing around with words to make them mean something they dont mean and were never intended to mean?
Doing just that has become very difficult over the past decade or so as woke ideas have latched on to a wonderful idea which plays out in George Orwell's infamous book 1984. In that book the concept is known quite simply as doublespeak, where meanings are quite deliberately turned round to mean the opposite of what the dictionary of normal speak defines.
A very simple use of this concept is the American newly acquired habit of calling people who have black skin, people of colour, when we all know, or should know, that black is a word used scientifically to mean a lack of colour. There are several instances of this way of misusing words, and calling our representatives our leaders is just one more.
And that leads us further into a linguistic mire where science is these days more often than not mocked, which is odd, as our lives are in so many ways enriched by the findings of science.
I dont want to pursue too many threads in these introductory chapters, but merely to point out that we have some serious problems with communication right at the start of our enquiry into government.
Let us return to our servants in parliament, or the people who are supposed to be our servants there.
They are assisted in their representative duties by a bunch of back-room folks who are referred to as the civil service. They are not bosses. They are not employed to tell us what to do, they are our servants (is there not a rather strong clue in the name -- civil servant?), and it is about time we started to remember and enforce these fundamental and important points. Unless we get some fundamental definitions agreed at the outset we shall all be going round in circles for ever more. That sounds just like what is going on in the current houses of parliament in the UK.
It seems to me that the first job for any government reformation is to return the system to basic principles, and for us to insist on the proper use of language and nomenclature.
The second problem reminds me of an earlier problem with British government. In the days when history was taught in schools we learned something about our past which allowed us to place ourselves in a context, something that once upon a time was regarded as useful.
I recall a certain John Dunning, and his famous resolution which stated that "The influence of the crown has increased, is increasing, and ought to be diminished".
Perhaps that ought to be updated by Clare's self evident resolution that "The power of government has increased, is increasing, and ought to be diminished".
The really fundamental question we need to address is the rather awkward matter of deciding what government is for. It is certainly not an institution created to rule. Kings used to do that. Despots continue to do that. Governments are supposed to be one side of a social contract. The other side is of course, the general public.