“Coprophagic cynicism”: Aditya Chakrabortty is in a fine fury (After Covid, the climate crisis will be the next thing the right says we ‘just have to live with’, 22 mes de julio). He identifies the ideology of extremist individualism that has broken the social contract that underpinned postwar Britain as a welfare state, and is now trying to dismantle our care and responsibility for each other.
They may not succeed in that, but we cannot go on pretending that there is no alternative to the market fundamentalist ideology that promises global disaster on at least two fronts. As an 80-year-old with inoperable cancer, the full shit may not hit my fan, but my grandchildren are being condemned to it. I share your rage, Aditya, and it is not only reserved for the Tories.
In reference to Aditya Chakrabortty’s enlightening column, this immoral government utilises a sort of bastardisation and ruination of true libertarianism, which relies on the tenet of the “harm principle”. They’re authoritarian on cultural issues, social issues, inmigración, asilo, international treaties and borders (though not during pandemics, por supuesto). When it comes to money, public health, tackling the climate emergency etc, they’re laissez-faire or “hybrid libertarian”. In every way, they’re wrong. They are far more efficient at acting on issues surrounding statues and knees than they are on topics such as Covid and climate change. I find the government’s approach weak, divisive and repugnant.
Social psychologists have long taught us that social and political attitudes tend to cluster in syndromes, so that it’s very likely that those who hold “libertarian” views on Covid will also be climate change sceptics, as Aditya observes. He describes “a growing extremist individualism … an ideology that claims to be about freedom when really it means selfishness”.
Another way of putting this is that there is an important distinction to be made between the libertarian and the psychopath, in that genuine libertarians respect the freedom of others, whereas psychopaths think only of their own. Psychopaths may imagine themselves, and convince others, that they are the former when they are in fact the latter. The imperative is to keep the psychopath out of power; easier said than done, but a good start would be to be clear about the difference.
Dr Michael Briant
Aditya Chakrabortty is right to draw attention to Boris Johnson’s vacuous repetition of the mantra “If not now, Cuándo?” to justify his experiment in achieving herd immunity by encouraging the spread of Covid, and to attribute his actions to the propitiation of extremist individualism. Whatever the Talmudic sage Hillel meant by the aphorism attributed to him, it would hardly have encompassed removing restrictions in the face of increasing infections, given he equated saving one life to saving the whole world. Such a notion is evidently foreign to a mask-averse prime minister happy to risk other people’s health by allowing aerosol transmission in enclosed spaces, who views octogenarians as expendable.
Labour has correctly identified “freedom day” as reckless, but has lacked clarity in not having called in advance for this to be postponed. It is essential that Keir Starmer now gets ahead of the curve and calls for management of the crisis on the basis of collective responsibility rather than Tory selfishness.
Dr Anthony Isaacs