Sunday 27 June 2021

Not one of the lesser matters

What he had to help him was good birth, good looks, good abilities, a very sweet temper, and a kind and truly genial nature. Also a strongish will of his own (whenever his heart was moving), yet ashamed to stand forth boldly in the lesser matters. And here was his fatal error; that he looked upon almost everything as one of the lesser matters.

R. D. Blackmore – Alice Lorraine (1875)

So Matt Hancock has gone. Ho hum.

Behind all the chatter there is a common problem for the rest of us though, the problem of having a detached perspective on social and political life. In peacetime, decent, tolerant people do have a tendency to see the wider ebbs and flows of current affairs as one of the lesser matters.

Take HS2 as an example. I and no doubt many others, treat it as one of the lesser matters. It will be pushed through and will probably cost more than is now claimed and achieve less than is now claimed. It is important as an example of a colossally wasteful vanity project in an age when waste is supposedly something to be deplored. Yet we survive colossally wasteful vanity projects. It will pass.

The UK coronavirus debacle is another, more expensive and wasteful example. Even the suspension of free movement has not stirred up as many as we might have expected. Many seem to view it as a necessary inconvenience and restrict themselves to a few grumbles.

In spite of the absurd and tedious interference with daily life, as far as I can tell many people still seem to treat the coronavirus debacle as one of the lesser matters. Important, in some cases tragic, but it will pass as Hancock has. This seems to be a common attitude.

This one is unlikely to pass though. Here we have a core weakness of looking on almost any political trend as one of the lesser matters. It seems likely that coronavirus restrictions will morph into some form of cushioned totalitarian politics. Totalitarian government leavened with welfare, inclusive narratives, lashings of virtue and nice smiles.

We now have the rather obvious spectre of a totalitarian environmental ethos dovetailed into the coronavirus debacle. Not so cushioned this one - although it will probably seem that way in the beginning. This is definitely not one of the lesser matters but it will be made to seem so until it is too late. When is too late? Here’s my guess - too late is the day after the next general election.


James Higham said...

Nicely put, AKH. Lesser matters can accumulate and have a cumulative effect down the track.

DiscoveredJoys said...

But, but... for 40 years politics was a lesser matter, overtaken by the machinations of the EU, and trivialised by the media desperate for column inches (and now pixels), and provided 'cover' by the BBC. Which current political party has a known ethos?

On the other hand if the bulk of people are unconcerned about such things, totalitarianism is unlikely to take root. You need to care before something becomes important enough. Labour reached for the acceptance of Socialism, and failed. The Tories reached for the acceptance of Business and failed. Who can guess what the Lib Dems are after from day to day?

Sam Vega said...

The government are extremely lucky regarding the totalitarian angle. It would only be seen as such if they were perceived to be benefitting at our expense. But the narrative is that we are all in this together, against the "common enemies" of covid and climate change. Ordinary Russians probably saw their government as standing firm and providing necessary measures against their evil capitalist enemies.

A K Haart said...

James - yes they do accumulate - like jobs left undone.

DJ - "Which current political party has a known ethos?" That's a surgical question. I tend to lump them together now, but in that case what comprises the glue? The interests of a particular social class as far as I can see - as always.

Sam - yes the pandemic has been a stroke of luck. As if the common theme is the old one, to have a common enemy and a mysteriously cunning virus is far better than a mysteriously cunning social class or foreign power.

djc said...

Parties form around a single matter of great importance, everything else becomes a lesser matter, differences are set aside for the greater cause. Then the great matter is settled, a compromise, or a stalemate… it becomes a lesser matter; 'normal' politics, the the egoistical climbing of greasy poles resumes until another great divide, another chasm to swallow lesser matters.
King v. Parliament, an Agrarian v. Industrial economy, Free Trade v. Protectionism, Capital v. Labour, a fixed order v. a changing world.

A K Haart said...

djc - maybe that's one of the problems, parties no longer have a convincing rallying cry and have to cobble together diverse standpoints not convincingly shared across the whole party.