Monday, 6 December 2010

What are we marching for?

There seems to have been a great deal of protesting going on recently. We have had a few thousand of Britain’s 2 million or so students meandering and (in a very few cases) marauding around London and, more recently, the somewhat strange activities of UK “uncut” in targeting retailers like Vodaphone and Top Shop - and I gather now Carphone Warehouse - because they don’t pay enough tax.

It seems to me that, while the idea of protest can be appealing, we should think through what we’re protesting about and why before we set about taking to the streets. And those who seek to give intellectual succour to the protesters must do likewise. Here’s the usually thoughtful Julian Dobson allowing the ‘spirit of ‘68’ to get the better of him:

The protestors don’t just exemplify civic engagement. They are also paragons of self-help. They get off their butts and get things done, using their time and resources for causes they care about. They share food and money. And while some of the slogans are tired, there are also examples of imagination and creativity.

But, Julian, what are they protesting about? And what exactly are they “getting done” – other than a temporary annoyance to the targeted business or those trying to go about their regular lives?

On the face of it the protests are pretty straightforward – you (insert name of chosen bloated plutocrat) must pay more tax so we (insert special interest group) can have whatever it is we are demanding provided for us by the Government - “free”.

These are the protests of the greedy against the greedy – groups of people who think it perfectly OK to club together so as to take more money off a particular group of people. People who don’t see that it’s just as much greed to argue for higher taxes to provide something you’ll benefit from as it is to seek to maximise profit and minimise tax (and probably of less social benefit).

However, there is something rather worse than the desire to take other people’s money for our own benefit. These protestors are campaigning for the right to be sheep – to continue being supplicants at the altar of the state. The campaigning students and occupying protestors are not agents of some greater liberty but servants of the big state – creatures of dependence not beacons of liberty. They want a bigger state, higher taxes and more regulation because they want the cuddly comfort zone that brings. The protestors don’t just want something for nothing, they want others fined to pay for that something and a state that rocks them gently in its cradle.

These protests are not the anger of the revolution – regardless of their chosen rhetoric – but the redoubt of those frightened by the prospect of liberty. Scared of self-service, caught in the bright headlights of personal responsibility. These protests are cries from those who fear losing their privileges and comforts.

These are not protests for freedom but the plaintive bleating of sheep trapped on the wrong side of the fence.

Not my fight.


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