Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Forcing people to do the right thing

I was just about to write a post about something I don't care about very much (an American pundit castigating Britons for criticizing American race relations), when the following headline caught my eye:

"Tough times cannot be a pretext for abandoning climate-change targets"

Its the headline of an op-ed in the The Times from Oct 13, 2008. I sat musing for a few moments about how stupid I believe the massed ranks of the newspaper editors, workaday politicians and busybodies of the world are in signing up to the concrete actions required by climate-change religion when they are based on something as contentious and flimsy as anthropogenic climate-change.

But this is just my usual brain-chatter. I'm sure I've detailed before why a) if climate-change is not our fault, there's absolutely nothing we can do to PREVENT it, just get used to it and b) if climate-change IS our fault, getting the same people who are happy to see tens of thousands of people murdered in Darfur and thousands of people in the Congo die down mines to agree to changing their polluting habits is a bit hopeful.

My mind wandered to why especially in Britain, but all over the developed world, it is becoming a norm to force people to eat well, exercise, quit smoking, recycle, drink less, refrain from killing small animals and on and on. The Times is happy to tell people whose livelihoods may well have just gone up in smoke that actually, global warming means we aren't going to prioritising getting them back into work; rather, they are a necessary sacrifice on the way to Climate Nirvana (whatever that is).

How have we got to the point where it is absolutely uncontroversial to stop people from engaging in perfectly normal activities, which may be harmful to the individual involved but completely harmless to those around them? How can free societies justify that? I remember fifteen years ago the newspapers mocking Singapore for thrashing people who litter, or vandalise. Now, I can't smoke in a pub without breaking a LAW (not that I actually smoke, but its the principle). For years, the government had public health campaigns about this and that, but they didn't intrude much into the general pattern of life. Now, children are forced to eat a particular diet at school, one not of their choosing, but decreed by the state. If I don't cut back on my fat intake, my doctor can actually choose not to provide me with certain treatments.

The problem with the government employing seven million people is, they all need something to justify their salary. And that is often now patrolling the public for its own good. Those should be chilling words. In the past they have covered sordid scandals like forced sterilisation and electric shock treatment of the mentally ill; like the forced seperation of children from their parents so they could be re-socialised in the 'proper' way.

None of the three main political parties in the UK seem at all non-plussed by this chivvying-with-threats mode adopted by the government- indeed, they line up to provide it with new things we need to be chivvied about. What a terribly sad situation in a nation which once prided itself as the home of individual freedom. Will someone come along and do something about this regimentation and repression?

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