On the U.S. and the U.K. Slouching Towards the Shores of Totalitarianism and Why We Need Grown-Ups

Phyllis Beveridge Nissila

I rarely wander un-chaperoned into the mine-field of British politics because I am not an historian per se and not a Brit. But on occasion a blog reader from the U.K.* will enlighten me as to what is happening in the struggling Brexit Movement by sending over articles from those who are British historians and political analysts and by sharing his “on the scene” observations.

The news from the other side of the Atlantic is complex, to say the least, involving the various leaders and political entities who comprise the British Parliament with its  varying views on the Movement. However, there are certain similarities between our disparate political systems. This post reflects on one that I would put this way:

Where are the grown-ups when we desperately need them?

The article the commenter linked me to yesterday was written by Peter Hitchens for the Daily Mail  wherein, among other topics, Hitchens comments thus on the need for grown-ups: “I do not think Parliament as it now is, or our political system, will survive for very long after (Brexit). We are no longer adult or wise enough to cope with either, or to use them properly.”

This reminded me of two things:

1. How political “discussions” even “debates” are now often rendered down to the lowest common denominator of human communication, if not deteriorating altogether into verbal abuse among not only family, friends, and colleagues but also by those who should know how to communicate in a civil manner. This includes members of both sides of the political aisle here in the United States, of which I am familiar, and  anywhere else when civility gives way to rage, violence, and ultimately societal breakdown, when we, well, begin to act like children on an unsupervised playground, and

2. How humans seem psychologically predisposed to “need an adult in the room,” for lack of a better way to say it, even the brilliant and powerful humans whose brilliance and power do not necessarily mean they are adult or wise.

But, of course–and here is our shared danger, in my view, in this volatile era–there are always those who can effectively pretend to be the adult knowing full well the power of such a one (or collective one), knowing full well his/her/their power over the people which inevitably gives way to some form of authoritarianism that turns out to be vastly different from all the good things they initially promised.

Or perhaps the authoritarian person or political party began in a haze of youthful and/or naive idealism but soon succumbed to corruption which, also inevitably, seems to repeatedly point to the truth in the statement “Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely” (Lord Acton).

It seems that both the United Kingdom and the United States, both strongly influenced by Judeo-Christian ethics, (classical) education, and hard work, have slouched towards similar temptations over time which that have created a kind of longing for some wiser grown-up to show us the way. Please. Before we hurt ourselves.

But how did we lose a grip on greatness? Ordinary flawed human nature, I think.

As once the dust and ideals of our revolutions settled and the people got on with private industry and personal wealth it seems the ruling classes looked around and realized how much gold can be gained by graft and the seeds of political corruption were sewn and, left untended, began to sprout.

At this point, it seems, a bitter harvest is nigh on both sides of the pond.

One of our founders over here, Thomas Jefferson, put it like this:  “Experience hath shewn, that even under the best forms of government those entrusted with power have, in time, and by slow operations, perverted it into tyranny.”

And tyranny of any form works well among a populace, in this context, a post-industrial populace such as in both the U.K. and the U.S. who have “achieved” perhaps too much leisure, too much gilded stuff, too much (useless and/or propagandized) education, too much boredom with and rejection of “the glory days” of each our own nation’s infancy–now romanticized more than revealed for all the blood, sweat, and tears the early days actually involved.

And too little self-reflection on the nature of true greatness, on human nature, and on the danger of looking to a (seemingly) wiser and more powerful someone–or something else–to turn back ships of state launched on increasingly treacherous seas.

We are especially in danger of being swallowed up in some form of totalitarianism if the God in Whom both nations derived their ethics is now rejected by many for the god of situational ethics.

When things start to break down such people are, as the expression goes, ripe for the pickens by the gurus and golden boys and girls who know just how to snake in and conquer them–“for their own good,” of course, just like authority figures should.

But what scares me most is the next and maybe close-to-final stage of civilization’s downfall where the power mongers no longer bother to be discreet about their crimes because they have for so long–and so successfully–pied-pipered the unwashed masses to the sea of totalitarianism the waves of annihilation are already poised momentarily above their heads just before crashing down.

Sound like just so much purple prose?

Consider how so many of the young and politically naive and/or under-educated in the U.S. are now applauding, for example, the shiny promises of yet another Socialist Utopia that has  been named, this time, the Green New Deal.

For another example, consider how few in the U.K. consider the authoritarianism implicit in the workings of the European Union that would de-facto erase borders, languages, and cultures for consolidation of a central power.

But we always have freedom of the press, right?

Consider also how many know that freedom of the press, so hard-fought for and won by our two nations for so long a period of time, has gradually given itself over to partisan public relations campaigns, the better to persuade the people with, the better to draw them away from real history, facts, and truth.

The better to con them on the way to the shore…

For both our nations, it seems it’s time for the grown-ups to re-take the wheel.

That is, if there is yet time in the U.S. where, many argue, the seeds of reversal have only recently been planted, and in the U.K where this week’s action for or against Brexit, is crucial.

*From my U.K. commenter’s observations:

“I think lasting damage has been done to (Britain’s) political institutions, and the blame lies entirely with them for bringing this upon themselves. There is a massive mood of discontent with opinions bitterly divided. Our politicians have signally failed to respond to the referendum (Brexit) result coherently, and in many cases have actively been engaged in sabotaging it. This is the Establishment vs. the People.

“It strikes me that in a democracy the outward form is maintained by politicians using chicanery and weasel words to describe their policies and views. They are often economical with the truth. In a dictatorship the rhetoric and lies are more blatant. I feel we have arrived somewhere between these concepts. When the line is crossed and democracy is treated with such contempt by the politicians people have voted into power, then we are in real trouble. This is the only chance we shall have of extracting ourselves from an inherently undemocratic system, the European Union. If we fail it will only serve as confirmation that our Parliamentarians are content to see the erosion of democracy.

“This ties in directly to your paragraph when you say….’where the elite no longer bother to be discreet or sophisticated about their crimes because they have for so long and so successfully pied-pipered the unwashed masses to the sea of totalitarianism….’

“And it is totalitarianism that is the inevitable result of a calculated disregard for democratic niceties. The left are just as likely to be the villains as the right. It’s just that the left hold sway in most of western civilisation so they have a head start. They have brilliantly employed subliminal Marxist rhetoric to achieve their dominance of the cultural narrative. The people have been soothed into docility with outlandish promises.”

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2 Responses to On the U.S. and the U.K. Slouching Towards the Shores of Totalitarianism and Why We Need Grown-Ups

  1. pb says:

    I hope that we in the U.S. do not go further along our own road to irreparable damage. It will take diligence, prayer, and every bit of recourse we have. Best of luck this week over there.
    Phyllis..

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  2. Yes Phyllis, and I would add that the sabotage of Brexit began at an early stage. We are now witnessing the results of three years of chicanery by politicians who cannot bring themselves to honour the democratic vote for the United Kingdom to leave the EU. Parliament has brought itself into disrepute and made this nation a laughing-stock. There is widespread anger and dismay among the people which will remain embedded in society, and irreparable damage has been done to the democratic process.

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