The following analysis came via William Hooper at the Oligarch. Much of it resonates with me. It is in response to the latest politics between the U.K. and the European mainland where U.K. is decidedly against Germany’s and France’s efforts in dealing with the Euro financial crisis. Hooper’s characterization, eloquently, of U.K.’s latest actions is apt too, in my opinion, of the prevailing mindset in the U.S. mass media towards everyone else:
Once someone seriously looses sight of everything except their own self interest, they become a “wild beast” held in check only by “fear of punishment” not “shame”.
David Cameron and the drums of war
Friday 09 Dec 2011
Yesterday, as a freak storm with 165mph winds hit the UK, David Cameron vetoed the critically important European financial stability treaty amendments Merkel and Sarkosy were desperately rushing through in Brussels. Cameron tried to take advantage of their desperation, he kept everyone up all night trying to win what we call in the world of politics “pork barrel concessions” for his country, but the Europeans called his bluff and agreed on a new treaty which supersedes Lisbon and omits the UK, leaving the UK looking more isolated than ever before. This short article analyses the ethics of David Cameron’s action, and looks at the possible implications for the UK’s relationship with Europe.
One of the things I have repeatedly pointed out on this web site is the fact that David Cameron has started to define justice as “Whatever is in British Interests”. When justice looses all divinity and revolves completely around the self all goodness has gone and we philosophers start talking about a slide to “tyranny”, and religious people start taking about a slide to “evil”.
Once someone seriously looses sight of everything except their own self interest, they become a “wild beast” held in check only by “fear of punishment” not “shame”. For example, in Plato’s Gorgias the inability of the journalist-politician Callicles to feel shame when Socrates ridiculed his arguments in front of an audience marked him out as a wild beast who had slipped into the abyss, whose last chance for salvation was the wrath of the gods, redemption by terror and suffering on earth until judged incurable, at which point he is allowed to die and cast into the fires of hell. This is why Socrates said anyone who commits an injustice should beg for punishment, dying unredeemed is the greatest fear, dying redeemed the greatest hope.
In order to understand this idea of shame and punishment, imagine a person suffering from a life threatening disease and desperately in need of medial treatment. He dials 112 but can’t get an Ambulance because the naive staff at Emergency Services have already sent out all their ambulances to treat flu cases, and now they have only one ambulance left, and there’re reserving that last Ambulance for cardiac arrest cases. So the operator tells the dying man to hail a taxi. The man then hangs up and flags down a taxi, please can you take me to the hospital immediately he half screams half begs. The taxi driver understands the severity of the situation, and says that will cost 100 euros instead of the usual 10 euros. The taxi driver is an example of a person who feels no shame, and an onlooker with no sense of “justice” would call the taxi driver “a good capitalist”. If the dying man has a friend with him, and his friend is both courageous and principled, his friend will be outraged by the taxi drivers behaviour and punch him on the nose. The Eurozone crisis is a bit like this, Italy is the dying man, David Cameron is the tax driver, the Telegraph Newspaper is the home crowd who feels no shame and are applauding his good capitalist blackmail, and the everyone else in Europe just retaliated by taking away his taxi licence, and now we are wondering whether they are going to punch him on the nose as well.
An Ancient Greek legend said that when Zeus made humanity he created but on law: anyone who feels no personal shame, or anyone who feels no urge to punish the wickedness of others, is a pestilence to society and should be put to death. The glue that binds human society together is made by the reaction that occurs when two substances are mixed together – outrage and shame. However, society can in fact survive with a few pestilent shameless wild beats inside it, because the majority’s love of justice keeps them in a state of perpetual fear, but as the proportion of wild beasts in society rises the end of civilization grows gradually near. So the Ancient Greeks said measure the strength and beauty of a society by the presence of “justice” and “shame” in its people – Athens was destroyed by the gods when the Athenians became “idle and cowardly, chatteres and money grubbers”.
The liberal ideologist Hilary Clinton will tell you this Ancient Greek legend is this untrue because in the 20th Century we finally found the holy grail, we reached the end of history, we developed universal constitutional laws that perfectly define injustice, along with police forces and law courts to enforce them, so Western society now runs on auto-pilot without the need for Zeus’s glue. It’s a flawed argument at the best of times, but it’s a completely absurd argument at the geopolitical international level. International laws mean nothing because laws can be “interpreted” by lawyers and diplomats anyway they like – for example, there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, and Trichet raped the Euro’s constitution far more effectively than DSK raped the maid (Trichet, like DSK, claimed in his defence she looked at him with terrified stupid eyes and he knew she wanted it).
So when the geopolitical community looses idealism big countries start bullying small countries, and small countries find big allies to protect them, and it gets messier and messier until eventually world war eventually breaks out. As an Ancient Greek philosopher, my favourite example of this is Ancient Athens, the Athenians began defining “justice” as “self interest”, then they pushed everyone around and got very rich, and eventually the whole Greek world broke out in war, and eventually the Spartans wiped the Athenians out. Another example, of course, is 1914 Europe. Great statesmen such as Otto von Bismarck could educate his neighbours about justice in debate creating a consensus, keeping the world safe, but when Europeans embraced populism and replaced their grand old statesmen with a popular elite, opinions about justice waved, everyone defined it differently, everything fell to pieces.
Democracy is the slippery slope to self interest and self deception, elite democracy only avoids tyranny if the elite remain worthy, yet the elite today are sick and dying, they seem to have crossed the rigidity of a Medieval Ideologue with the stupidity of Facebook and Twitter. So as I have pointed out in the past the UK is gradually reaching the end of the slippery slope, you can see it in our journalism, politics, and rioting.
Now David Cameron has made it clear that he is no longer Merkel’s and Sarkosy’s friend, so now they will stop being his friend and ask themselves the question “What are the EU’s best interests as regards the UK?”
Kicking the UK out of the EU would would terrify the Greeks and make countries across Europe much more serious about reforms, would repatriate European financial services to Paris, would demolish the Gilts / £ safe haven and drive big flows back into the Euro Sovereign Bonds, would increase elite property prices in the EU, and would give both Angela Merkel and Sarkosy an enormous political boost domestically. Remember how the Falklands secured Thatcher’s election? Voters love their leaders doling out a bit of rough justice, and it’s exactly the sort of move that is in sync with the swing away from effeminate muddle headed liberalism.
From a philosophical point of view David Cameron is no longer Merkel’s and Sarkosy’s friend, he has committed multiple injustices against them, the right thing to do is to exile him, any other response would be cowardly and weak. It’s also in the interests of the Western World because democracy has to learn to behave responsibly and we need someone to experiment with economic crisis and new ideas, and the UK is the karmic epicentre of modern socioeconomic philosophy and therefore ideally placed to learn from it’s mistakes when it sows what it has reaped.
“May you live in interesting times” said the Chinese sage, well we surely do.