Friday, 6 June 2014

D-Day. The very least we can do is treasure the prize of liberty those men won


Sometimes you hear something that shows someone gets it, understands what liberty - choice, opportunity - is about and why it is central to what we are:

Society is not determined by some herd of hand-wringing heifers and steers in a departmental subcommittee's focus group. Culture is not ordered off a left-wing menu like some half-strength double decaf soy latte in a recycled paper cup. Society and culture are about people. Our culture is the function of our people—all the people, not just a select few. It is a combination of the lives, the actions, the thoughts and the choices of individuals. Some individuals will choose to drink alcohol. Some will choose not to. I do not believe the non-drinkers have any moral right or obligation to enforce their view and their personal choices on to anyone else's. This is not your culture; it is our culture. 

On a day when we try to recall - to understand - why young men of 18 and 19 gulped down their hearts and headed under fire onto a beach, these words resonate. The example was the nanny state but it could have been free speech, the over-reach of 'law-and-order' or the extensions of secrecy.  We're still the free world - and are so because of what those young men did 70 years ago. But that freedom slowly atrophies in the face of assault - from the advocates of a security state scaring us with tales of terrorism, from the health fascists and nannying fussbuckets who think they have some right to tell us what choices we should make about our lives, and from the offended mob that hounds the dumb and polices the words of the ordinary man.

Perhaps we should take this moment to consider what we're doing when we lock up some sad twenty-something for saying something unpleasant on Twitter. To consider whether it's right to take children off their parents, force the elderly into homes or conduct terrorist trials behind closed doors. We might also ask why we make possessing something a crime, why we feel the need to photograph and film every aspect of people's ordinary lives and whether requiring people to show ID to buy a drink undermines trust and civility.

We should wonder whether requiring an ever more bewildering collection of permissions, licenses and seals to do the most mundane of things - the sort of act that, in the world those young men fought to save, was taken for granted. Why should you need the permission of some bureaucrat to extend your house, put up a shed, open a shop, set up a business or sell a car?

So take a moment. Remember we fought a war that both liberated and defended liberty. And ask whether taking another's choice from him is what those men fought for - whether it's a choice to drink and smoke or a decision to build a house on the edge of his wood or open a business in his front room. I have no tales of D-Day to tell but I will shed tears of remembrance at the astonishing, incredible things that ordinary men did to protect our freedom. They succeeded. Our freedom was saved.

The least we can do is treasure that prize.


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