SOS! It’s time to Save Our Society…

Margaret Thatcher said there was no such thing as society. Or, rather, that is the decontextualised quote which survives her. Shorn of the explanatory following sentences, it paints a Conservative view of  political and economic responsibilities and interdependency as a fraud.  But, it wasn’t what she meant. 

We’re in a moment when we really need to do some hard thinking about what society means. Beyond attack ads and polemic, there are fractures and better possibilities if we heal the former and embrace the latter.

Or maybe, all points on the political spectrum need to blow their nostrum into the handkerchief of common sense.

Divorcing the quote from its argument that we are responsible for our choices and the largesse of the state is a failsafe has become akin to thinking that The Police sang about Sue Lawley, and refusing to believe otherwise even when shown the printed lyrics.

I’ve been thinking a lot about this as I undergo Party Political Detox. Usual side-effects – sweating, shaking with rage, hearing voices on the Today programme. Mostly, I have been thinking about this while not venturing beyond the end of my street on Saturdays.

What happens to a society when one group is intimidated 1/7 days a week? To avoid confusion, I mean JEWS. The all capitals are deliberate to make up for my aversion to going into the centre of the actual Capital. 

If you read that and thought, I know JEWS who go about their business in London and say they aren’t bothered or I know JEWS who join the marches because they want the war to stop, I would respectfully suggest that you get to know a few more JEWS. It’s not the majority view, however much your political prejudice wishes to make it so.

This moment and this climate demand that, as opinion formers, we think about what this tells us about society. Thatcher’s truncated quote misses out the bit where she recommends that we take responsibility as individuals before looking to the state.

I agree with this insofar as one should probably have a little looksee at the placards going past before joining the intoxicating power of the crowd. Anything with a swastika on a star of David? Netayahu on a pile of dead babies? Calls for jihad? River to the sea?

If you, as an individual, have seen these and still wish to align yourself with the crowd, you have made a choice.

Tens of thousands have made the same choice every week and you can view the concern of JEWS on your own personal scale from ambivalent to self-righteous to too-few-votes-to-give-a-shit. 

If you’re on the Left, here comes the rhetorical mindfuck. You are agreeing with Margaret (Bloody) Thatcher!  Or what you thought she meant if you were too lazy to read the rest of what she said. You have decided that the damage to and expense incurred by the state is less important than your choice to take a nostalgia trip to the miners’ strike.

Newsflash – the Hamas terrorists love this! Honestly. They’re watching you and think you’re awesome. The Israelis don’t care because they’re busy trying to prevent October 7 from happening again and know that, at best, you hate them only fractionally more than you did on October 6. Whatev.

So, this is where we get to society. 

Beyond the political demarcations and pointless posturing for pauses or a truce, is this a flashing signal that society has become unhealthy? 

I think we have some serious work to do. While the political class wrings its hands over a matter it cannot meaningfully influence and ignores the economic issues it can, we are allowing demagogues to slip in. Galloway and Yaxley-Lennon are bacilli and the florid Trump rash is spreading CPAC/Fox News remuneration opportunities unchecked.  

What might it take to heal society or at least inoculate it from the spread of extremist infection? Personal responsibility.

From top to bottom. At the top, party leaders need to stop filing the wedge to a fine point. If your only means of staying in the conversation as a minority party is to bang on ad nauseum about an issue this divisive, the country will make its excuses and listen to someone else.

SNP- that’s you that is. If you think that sending up a trial balloon to float to the left of Labour for university town seats and calling it principled is a LibDem vote getter – Ed, we need to have a word.  

Thatcher’s preference for the agency of the individual extends to the ballot box as much as it does to the police line.. If a minority (JEWS) are forced to plead in vain for  the interventions of society to protect it against poor individual choices, we have accepted that the fracture is just fine and we continue to limp towards disorder for which no one will want to accept responsibility..

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Radix is the radical centre think tank. We welcome all contributions which promote system change, challenge established notions and re-imagine our societies. The views expressed here are those of the individual contributor and not necessarily shared by Radix.

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