“I have nothing to offer you except ‘blood, toil, sweat and tears’ ” promised Winston Churchill when he stepped in as Prime minster in 1940. Churchill warned that retaining freedom would come at a high and sacrificial price. The people heard, agreed and paid it.
“Brexit would be bad for my diocese because it might temporarily turn Kent into a lorry park” threatened the Archbishop of Canterbury this month. He was urging people to give up their freedom and repudiate Brexit for the sake of convenience. Kent is a beautiful place. It was a very worthy convenience, but still a convenience.
The Christmas cards we have recently taken down, proved to be a great test of friendship. Several very nearly ‘ex-friends’, of whom I was very fond, clearly had written their cards of good will between gritted teeth.
They were Remainers whose friendships had been tested to the point of destruction. They appeared to be profoundly shocked that someone who loved Europe as much as I did, spoke a couple of languages, and relished European culture, could possibly long for Brexit.
No matter that I had written back to each in the past saying that what mattered to me in Brexit was democratic freedom. For reasons I found hard to fathom they still saw me as a bigot and not a freedom fighter; a dork not a democrat.
What has surprised and shocked me on the other hand are the threats and fears a no deal outcome has had on people. When the Archbishop warned in his grim tones of the danger of his diocese being turned for a while into a lorry park I wanted to reply “but what price are you willing to pay for you and your church’s freedom”?
And there lies the weakness of democracy. At every election politicians bribe the people with the promise of further comforts and advantages if only they will vote for them; but it ought to be the other way round.
At times of election we ought to have politicians asking for our vote on the grounds that they are going to make life more difficult for us. More difficult because to achieve some valuable or noble goal.
It might be redistribution of income; it might be tightening our belts in the face of overspending. They could ask us to forego certain conveniences in order to protect the ecosystem.
And that’s where the weakness of democracy (the least worst system for government we have) lies. It an increasingly comfortable culture votes can only be bought for self-interest instead of won for virtue.
One of the most disturbing tropes that has come out of the arguments about Europe has been the one that the older Brexit voters are stealing younger remain voters’ future.
Leaving aside the hints of politically prompted euthanasia that lurks behind such a preferencing of youth over age, it ignores the possibility of wisdom, memory and experience.
Do the ‘young’ know or remember anything of the BSE crisis in 1996, where responding to European demands we killed and incinerated a million healthy cattle, only to find they still refused to lift an export ban on beef? Even the Euro-friendly Government of the day suspected this had turned into a secret attempt to wage economic warfare against a trade competitor rather than putting health issues first.
Have they read anything at all of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s Gulag Archipelago where the historical realities of an anti-democratic modern, brutal and murderous Left wing regime was allowed free rein?
Freedom to travel without inconvience is placed the top of their political bucket list, but what are they prepared to pay to retain their democracy and freedom of speech and movement?
There doesn’t seem to be much awareness that freedom comes with a price.
Freedom to vote and to practice democracy and freedom of speech have come at the price of imprisonment in some places and torture and death in others.
It will be a pity of the price of passing our own laws, choosing our own values, guarding our own freedoms come at the slight inconvenience of filling in forms, or paying £10 for a visa to visit another country, but maybe that is one of the choices we face; inconvenience or acccountability?
During the last century the ambitious poltical Left and the ambitious political Right tried to crush democracy. The death toll in the 2nd world war, begun by resisting Fascism, the anti-democratic Right, was over 80 million.
R. J. Rummel in his ‘Death by Government ‘ (1994), claims about 110 million people were killed by Communist democide between 1900 to 1987; the cost in terms simply of internal repression exacted by the anti-democratic Left.
Have the realities of human and political nature changed just because the century has a different number? Have the young been bamboozled into believing that moral progress mirrors technological progress?
Freedom is not a steady state political privilege that once won can never be lost. It is fragile and unstable and kept only at a cost. The cost may be even more than inconvenience and interruptions to parking, shopping and travel.
‘Standard of living’ is an important social currency and we should be grateful for it; but never at the cost of the ‘standard of being’, which is the currency of freedom, integrity and responsibility; and it and has little to do with convenience.
Nothing good comes for free. The more we recognise it as good, the more it will cost.