Something caught my eye over at Leg-iron’s place.
It is about control…
These rules were not brought in for your benefit. They were brought in to make you do as you are told.
Why should the government want to control people? It didn’t used to be so controlling. Not even under past Labour governments of Wilson and Gallaghan.
Sitting by the river in the sun, with a pint of beer and a cigarette, I found myself entertaining a different hypothesis. Everything that is under attack by the government these days is a luxury of some sort or other. Smoking is one of life’s pleasures. So also is drinking. And so is flying off on holiday to Spain. Why is the government calling time on the pleasures of life? Why has the government become so puritanical?
The answer I found myself toying with was that, after a few centuries of unparalleled economic growth and prosperity, a government of politically-correct environmentalist pessimists now foresees a coming era of austerity, not just for Britain, but for the entire world, and wishes not to avoid it or escape it, but pre-emptively adapt to it. The reasoning is that, after a century of economic growth and rising prosperity powered by cheap oil, we’re going to be facing ever higher oil prices over the next 50 years. The result will be falling rather than rising living standards. Everyone, it has been decided, is going to have to tighten their belts, and live simpler and more frugal lives. They’re going to have live without many of the luxuries they’ve grown accustomed to. And rather than let this all happen suddenly, the government wishes to make sure that falling living standards are gradually introduced in a planned fashion. People are going to have to learn to live without luxuries. And cigarettes and tobacco are the first in line to be squeezed out. After that it’ll be alcohol. And chocolate. And meat. And cars. And holidays. A century from now, our descendants will look back on the late 20th century much like Romans during the fall of the Roman empire looked back at the imperial heyday of Rome.
The government also unsurprisingly foresees civil unrest during this period, and that is why civil liberties are being removed, and police forces strengthened, and surveillance intensified. The coming era will probably also see war over dwindling oil resources. This war has arguably already started. It began with the 1990 Gulf war, and continued with the Iraq war on the war in Afghanistan, where we are told our troops will remain for a generation. These wars weren’t about overthrowing dictatorships, or fighting terrorism, but were about securing a key strategic oil-rich region. The likely upcoming Iran war will be about oil too, and not about overthrowing nuclear-armed mullahs.
None of it is spoken about openly. Rather than saying we’re in Afghanistan and Iraq to secure oil supplies, we’re told that we’re fighting terrorism. And rather than saying that we’re going to have to do with less and less oil, we’re told that burning oil causes global warming, and we’re going to have reduce our carbon footprint. And rather than say that we’re going to have to do without luxuries, we’re offered instead the promise of a ‘smoke-free’ world (and after that an ‘alcohol-free’ and ‘chocolate-free’ and ‘car-free’ and ‘holiday-free’ world, as if each represented some sort of progress). We are being asked to welcome a world in which we live on a diet of bread and water, and cycle or walk everywhere. We are being re-introduced to poverty. But we are being told that poverty is wealth, so that we will welcome it with open arms. “Oh how much better it all is!” we will cry. “We used to have cigarettes and beer and chocolates and cars and holidays in Spain. Thank God we no longer have to endure those dreadful things, and have good plain bread and water instead”
It is as if, rather than waiting for the Second World War to start, the government had pre-emptively introduced rationing and blackouts and Dig For Victory in 1937 rather than in 1940, but disguising the real reasons for doing so by insisting that the reduced food allowance was ‘healthier’ and that.blackouts ‘improved night vision’ and home-grown cabbages and swedes were ‘tastier’ than imported food. Anything but the truth that Britain would soon have bombers swarming in its skies, and U-boats prowling in its seas. That sort of talk might cause alarm.
I have no idea whether the above hypothesis has any truth to it. It simply offers a not-totally-implausible explanation for government-funded puritanism. The passive smoking scare is a fraud. Global warming is another fraud. Both are funded by government. Why is the government funding fraud? In a climate of institutionalised mendacity, everyone is entitled to their own guess. In fact they are entitled to as many guesses as they like.
We live in a deeply pessimistic time. We see dangers and threats in all directions. From overpopulation. From resource depletion. From either global warming, or global cooling. From secondhand smoking as well as from firsthand smoking. Everything is dangerous. Everything is toxic. Everything is carcinogenic. An optimistic conviction that the world could be made a better place has been replaced by a glum certitude that it can only get worse. This pessimism, articulated by hundreds of doomsayers like Paul Ehrlich for the past half century, has now infected governments, and defines policy. The Greens are in charge, and they wish to undo the industrial revolution, and the Enlightenment, and return to a sustainable agrarian society, powered by oxen and windmills. We are all to become uneducated peasants again, subservient to the lord of the manor. History is to be put into reverse.
In some ways, nothing expresses this better than the replacing of filament light bulbs with dimlights. It is a darkening of the light. They are a half way stage in a return to candlelight, which is all there will be once the power stations cease functioning. Soon, no doubt, there will be TV programmes, fronted by celebrities, which will explain how to farm sustainably using oxen. And how to make wooden clogs. And build shacks with wattle and daub. And treat cancer with henbane and molasses.
Or maybe my hypothesis is too elaborate, and it’s much simpler than this. Leg-iron seemed to think so: