What should be done?

Sometimes as a writer on social and political issues, I get this nagging feeling that it might be a good idea to suggest what should be done in government and wider public life rather than just moaning about it.

This may seem like a somewhat obvious and absurd thing to say. Surely it is the job of someone writing about public life to put forward ideas about how to make it better?

I agree with this to an extent. However there are real practical difficulties.

Firstly, I think the primary task of a non-fiction writer is to describe and explain what is happening fairly and accurately. This takes a lot more time, effort – and space – than people might give credit for. We have limited time and space to play with as writers – and since we tend to be writing about something, that something necessarily takes up most of our time and attention.

Secondly, and perhaps more interesting, is the necessary confrontation with the world of existing policy-making and law.  Policy-making in government and other major public organisations often involves highly convoluted processes with many layers of consultation and detailed, jargon-laden documents of hundreds of pages that are almost designed to deter anyone who is not already involved from getting a proper grip on what is actually going on, let alone interfering in it. Indeed it often seems like the purpose of policy-making is to keep outsiders out, to keep things in the hands of those who are paid to take an interest: in other words of established interest groups, public sector institutions and policy wonks.

At the end of my book, The Tribe I included an obligatory chapter of reflections about what might be done in response to ‘the system of diversity’ and the issues that arise out of it. But, as I hear is typical with such books, it was the last chapter that I gave serious attention to, I didn’t have many words to work with and my deadline for completion was pressing harder than it had been with other chapters.

I was also confronted with an issue of agency.

Who was I talking to? Who was going to act and how? Was I giving policy advice, in this short final chapter, tacked on at the end of 250 pages? The problems I had identified in the previous pages were largely about dogmas and practices of identity-based favouritism coming to dominate the way government and other institutions relate to the world around them. Whatever political parties are notionally in charge, this has been becoming more pronounced  – Labour and the Conservatives/Lib Dems at the United Kingdom level or in Wales, the SNP in Scotland and all parties including the Greens in Brighton in local government.  

Hence government (and governance of other major institutions) appeared to be part of the problem rather than the solution. I could only really see recovery and improvement coming from the outside. Solutions only appeared likely by citizens getting organised to fight for and protect what they hold dear – for example democratic life, free intellectual inquiry, diversity of opinion and the right to criticise and challenge the purveyors of ideology and bigotry.

But how would an elected government pursue this sort of agenda?

For the sake of both myself and readers, I am only going to make a few observations here.

I think the most important thing would be to make a firm statement of purpose: that we need to restore trust to our state institutions like the police, social services and the education sector. They need to recover their sense of purpose, pursuing trustworthiness based on behaviour and performance rather than ideological conformity and the reflexive favouring of some identity groups as victim groups, which is proving destructive of trust in so many areas.

Another way to put this would be to emphasise the importance of work, of good work: of police catching criminals, social services protecting vulnerable people and universities teaching the best of what mankind has to offer, rather than each of them getting diverted into ideological straightjackets via equalities and inclusion policies and indoctrination under the guise of training.

I should give a nod here to the likes of Maurice Glasman and Jon Cruddas and the Blue Labour strand of thinking, with its focus on work as something which fulfils us, enriches the world around us and integrates us into that world. Fulfilling bureaucratic tick-box requirements based on skin colour, gender or anything else is not that. Indeed it undermines the very idea of good work, replacing it with goodness as seen through the prism of identity: a dangerous thing as we surely do not need reminding of from history.

We badly need to recover a respect for quality and for standards in public life. I wrote a piece recently for Quillette about hate crime, a classic example of how the state has diluted standards of truth and evidence (to an incredible degree in this case) in order to satisfy the representatives of identity-based interest groups. This lack of rigour has provided opportunities for grievance-mongers to press their grievances more and through this to demand further protection and favouritism, thereby further undermining equality and trust – and encouraging further grievances in return.

We need to recover trust – in our institutions, our public life and through that in our democratic society as a whole.

And a lot of that is about recovering respect for standards, for quality and for work; in other words for ourselves.

I don’t have time or space to go into it now but a crucial part of this wider agenda would be respect for our language, for the meaning of words. As I write in Chapter 7 of my book (on The Control of Language), the identity politics of the system of diversity has attained a stranglehold on the meaning of key words in our public life like ‘equality’, ‘tolerance’, ‘discrimination’, ‘racism’ and ‘Islamophobia’ – making them work to suit its own political agendas. A fight-back on the meaning of words is badly needed.

Contents page for my book, The Tribe: The Liberal-Left and the System of Diversity 


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