The world is full of utopians pursuing utopian projects.
Smoking bans are utopian projects. The utopia of Tobacco Control is a “smoke-free world”, a world in which, somehow or other, everyone has stopped smoking – perhaps because nobody needs to smoke any more, because nobody experiences any stress any more, nobody worries about anything, nobody puzzles over anything. The “smoke-free world” of Tobacco Control has to be some sort of heaven. The Tobacco Controllers are trying to create heaven. And that’s why they regard themselves as holy warriors, with God on their side.
But all these attempts to create heaven always and invariably end up creating hell. Smoking bans fragment society as they expel smokers onto the streets. They break up communities and shatter friendships. They set people against each other. And instead of making life easier and less stressful for smokers, they make life harder and more stressful for them. And smokers are also continually robbed by ever-mounting taxation. And they are insulted with bullying, brow-beating messages on their tobacco packets.
One day the smoking bans will be lifted, and the taxation removed, and the messages erased. And that’ll happen when the utopian project is recognised to have not only failed to have attained its utopian goal, but to have caused a terrible social catastrophe of a scale which will live on for centuries in human memory. And it will be seen once again how people who were trying to create heaven ended up once again creating hell.
This utopian or millenarian mentality was well expressed by Oliver Cromwell during the English Civil War, when he said to his fellow revolutionaries:
“Do you not think, gentlemen, that we are not ushering in those things which God hath promised?”
These are words of his that I read somewhere once, I know not where, and which burned themselves into my memory. The world is full of people who think they are ushering those things which God hath promised. Needless to say, Cromwell’s utopian Commonwealth was a failure, and on his death the monarchy was rapidly restored.
I’m no utopian. I have not spent my life trying to build a utopia, nor start The Revolution, nor usher in the Kingdom of Heaven. If anything, I’m a dystopian, trying to prevent the world becoming more of a hell than it already is. I think the Millennium, when the saints go marching in, is a thousand years hence, and more likely ten or a hundred thousand years hence.
After all, look around. We’ve had World War 1 followed by World War 2. And we’ve had Auschwitz and Hiroshima. And the Soviet gulag, and the Killing Fields of Cambodia. And now we’ve got the Islamic State, and the Bataclan massacre. And nearly all of it has been the work of Cromwells of one kind or other, who thought they were ushering in those things which God hath promised. And all they ever brought was death and destruction.
The European Union is another piece of utopian social engineering. It’s an attempt to construct a whole new society, and merge dozens of once sovereign nations into a single superstate with a central government and no internal borders (and no external border either). And the European political class which has been embarking on this “project” for the past 70 years are themselves utopian socialists no different from Lenin or Trotsky or Mao or Castro. Here’s EU President Jean-Claude Juncker speaking recently in defence of Karl Marx:
“Karl Marx was a philosopher, who thought into the future had creative aspirations, and today he stands for things, which is he not responsible for and which he didn’t cause, because many of the things he wrote down were redrafted into the opposite,” Mr Juncker said in a speech at a church in Trier.
“One has to understand Karl Marx from the context of his time and not have prejudices based on the review, these judgements shouldn’t exist. Karl Marx was lucky in life as he was born in Trier. He grew up in the city, actually the shortest period of his vita.”
Drawing on the philosopher’s legacy, Mr Juncker said the European Union’s instability could be addressed by focusing more on social welfare, which he said had been a neglected part of European integration so far.
“It will be a task of our time to create a lively reality out of the social rights we set up for Europe, for the ones who live today and often are sad or blackmailed by life and won’t have enough social rights and the ones, who will be born tomorrow,” he said.
From this we learn that Juncker is a Marxist, and intent on “creating a lively reality out of social rights”. That is to say that he is another Oliver Cromwell, ushering in those things which God hath promised. And we may also predict with certainty that his utopian European political project is as doomed to certain failure as any of its predecessors. It will indeed be “a lively reality” when it comes crashing to the ground.
And we might also guess that the appreciative audience to whom he addressed his remarks were also Marxists, albeit well-dressed Marxists in expensive suits and ties. These are champagne socialists, and in the case of Juncker he does indeed consume a great deal of champagne.
And we have in the UK plenty of our own utopian socialists. Tony Blair (who brought in the UK smoking ban) is a utopian socialist. And so was Gordon Brown. But supposedly Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron was another revolutionary. And we have found out in recent weeks that our current Prime Minister Theresa May is yet another one of them: she single-handedly thwarted Brexit.
These days the revolutionaries are not to be found on the streets throwing Molotov cocktails: they are to be found already in government. But even if they have the immense advantage of already being in government, they’re still going to find it impossible to construct their utopia.