Post-Aug '11 Manchester riots (I callously am not feeling emotional about those in London, Birmingham, or Liverpool; and by 'Manchester' I mean 'Greater Manchester' so include Salford) I have felt a welling affinity with this beautiful city, my adopted home, which feels almost like the joyous and tearful confusion of fresh love. I first felt the onset during the riots, as the twitter Mancophiles were so fast in organising volunteer forces to sweep and dust the broken glass. It grew stronger and warmer, seeing the police out in force the next day; seeing my fellow Mancunians heading off to work despite the previous nights destruction; seeing the legal system's quick and efficient response; seeing and feeling the decent camaraderie which spread over our city.
This was a little over a week ago, and some of the boarded windows have been reglazed (the ever present sticker-based slogan 'Love United; Hate Glazer', wittily became 'Love Manchester; Love Glaziers') others have been decorated, painted, muralled. Shop windows proudly display 'We Love MCR' posters, mugshots of the wanted looters, reminders that they are open or will be opening again soon. During the events I responded furiously in this blog, condemning the looters with liberal use of swear words. I received a mixed reaction ranging from reposts and 'likes', to accusations of rightwingery. I didn't make any calls for undue or unusual punishment of the perpetrators; what I did do however was suggest they be expected to take full responsibility for their actions. My posts felt like visceral, immediate and uncensored purges of my disgust. I am pleased that in my haste to react, despite my ripe language, I did not say anything I fundamentally disagree with.
Politically I've generally thought myself left of centre, but why should being a leftie mean I should think the government is to blame for the underlying causes. Just because someone is poor, or disadvantage, or uneducated, or even stupid or bored, does not mean they should not be held accountable for their criminal actions. The government provides education, hospitals, emergency services, defence, benefits; why should it also be expected to give our lives meaning? If we are not content look inwards not outwards; self improvement, not blame placing.
The political spectrum does not simply run from left to right along the X axis; it also runs from libertarian to authoritarian on the Y axis. Also, contrary to the assumptions of many of the people in my life, left does not equal unwavering good, and right does not equal unwavering bad (Whether or not anyone actually believes these things, the common use of language seems to imply this is the case). There is little to separate New Labour from the Conservatives, and the extremes of Left leaning politics have arguably killed more innocent people that the extreme right. However this is deceptive, because in this country the extreme Left sells magazines and collects anti-government petitions outside health-food shops, and the extreme right shouts racial abuse at the mirror when it reflects a sun-tanned face.
I identify more closely with middling-Libertarianism than with the Left, however what I believe seems to be a combination of conservative, progressive, and libertarian. I believe that the individual is important – individual responsibility primarily, as opposed to selfish attainment at the expense of others – but that the individual cannot (or at least does not) exist outside of society. By providing free health care and education, society does the most it can to improve personal freedom, without falling down the route of replacing freedom with comfort. Once a society starts to favour comfort over freedom, it begins to lose grasp of both, and once a society worries too much about the cause of mindless criminal damage it risks losing its sanity. A society should not be expected to provide absolutely everything for its inhabitants, and should not be expected to pamper and coddle those inhabitants who demand more than they have earned and are not entitled to.
Some of my beliefs might edge towards right the X axis, but nothing in my belief system is on the authoritarian side of the Y axis. I am however a bit of a hypocrite; let me explain. During my two rants against the riots, I bitterly complained about the ungrateful nature of the rioters. How dare they turn so pettily against this comfortable and prosperous nation that allows them to live relatively undisturbed and free; even the poorest in this country are still better off than billions of people the world over. Well, despite the riots, we still live in a fantastically safe and comfortable country; one that I am increasingly more proud of.
Yesterday I began reading Christopher Hitchens' account of how his affinity with the United States of America lead to him applying for US citizenship as a direct response to the terrorist attacks of 11/09/2001. The great British-born journalist Hitchens speaks of his love of his adoptive country and the protectiveness he felt after the vicious, barbarous attacks. He speaks of the inane mumblings he began to hear from Left-leaning friends and colleagues about 'the chickens coming home to roost'. How the wrongheaded and the blindly liberal (in the sense of believing that everything Western is evil, everything bad is the West's fault; everything opposing the West is doing so driven either by the forces of good or the fight against Colonialism) tried to place blame with everyone and everything, except with the calculated mass-murders and the evil ideas that drove them.
Hitchens' response and experiences are clearly far more extreme than my own affinity with Manchester; but I understand the stance he took, and currently feel for Manchester what he must have felt for the United States of America. And now I'm so tired I can't remember if I'm still making the original point I started off with. Such is the nature of blogging – it all goes out there, whatever the quality or the comprehensibility. This is a writing exercise primarily; I follow the words hither and thither.