It used to be last thing at night, but these days, I seem to have my most interesting ideas first thing in the morning. And I think that maybe it’s because when I first wake up in the morning my mind is a blank – a tabula rasa -, and the first ideas have the stage to themselves, like the first character to appear in a stage play, before all the other characters show up.
And today’s thought had me asking myself, not for the first time, why I’ve become pretty right wing over the last few years, when for much of my life I was rather left wing. It’s rather odd.
And I think I know why I became left wing, and it was in part because in my travels around the world in my early life I’d seen a great deal of inequality. For example, in Rio de Janeiro I was always a bit shocked by the way great wealth sat side by side with great poverty: on the one hand the expensive hotels along the Copacabana beach, and on the other the grim favelas on the sides of the surrounding hills. It was too much inequality to bear. It was the kind of inequality I never saw in Britain.
So too much inequality had been unbearable, and made me want to lessen inequalities. And I think that actually that’s a quite natural response.
But this morning’s rather startling thought was that if there could be too much inequality, there could also be too little inequality. For in its extreme, the equalisation of any society must lead to complete uniformity. To ubiquitous sameness.
Smoking bans are one example of this. There used to be lots of different pubs, all with their own different atmosphere. But now they’re all the same: they’re all uniformly “smoke-free”. And the atmosphere has gone. Yet egalitarians always see greater equality as “progress”.
It’s not just things like smoking bans. Political correctness demands not just that nobody should smoke or drink or eat disapproved foods, but that everyone should think and speak the same way. Political correctness is about ensuring that everybody sings from the same hymn sheet. It demands strict conformity to the approved consensus view. And that’s another way in which equality is imposed, not just in terms of wealth, but in terms of culture and belief.
Erasing differences between black and white, Christian and Muslim, gay and straight, men and women – treating them all the same -, is another way of imposing uniformity, imposing equality. Yet it’s an unreal equality, because they’re actually not all the same. They’re all different.
These days some students are demanding “safe spaces” where they can’t hear rival opinions. More and more speakers are being refused, because they’ll say the ‘wrong’ things. And this can’t be tolerated.
And so this morning I was thinking that if there could be too much inequality, there could equally be too little inequality. And if we go on removing inequalities, we’ll all be wearing a single uniform, because dress inequality is another kind of inequality for the egalitarians to try to eradicate.
And I think such a society would be utterly stifling. It would be like Stalin’s Soviet Union, where even the faintest criticism of the Great Leader could have you shipped to Siberia, as many Russians were. I like people to dress differently, and have different beliefs. I think variety is the spice of life.
So today’s thought was that there could be both too much inequality, and too little inequality, and that there must therefore be an ideal intermediate state with just the right amount of inequality.
And so if people become left wing, it’s because they see too much inequality around them. And if they become right wing, it’s because they see too little inequality. They’re both natural compensations for excesses of one sort or other. And if I’ve been becoming right wing, it’s been in response to the over-equalisation that’s come with things like smoking bans and political correctness and all the rest of it. In the past I saw too much inequality, but now I see too little. So I’ve shifted from left to right.
And I suspect the same thing is happening with a lot of other people. And it’s perfectly natural.
I hope that made sense.