Silence of the Sheep
A few hours ago, (this was written in April 2005) a french friend explained to me how fear is being used to undermine democracy and tolerance in France: "We are sheep. We all keep quiet because we are afraid - not afraid of all this phony nonsense about terrorism - but because we are scared of being out of step. We are scared of standing out of the crowd. The politicians know that. They are taking away more and more of our liberties. It doesn't sound much like the Land of the Marseillaise, n'est ce pas? - but it is all too true."
Fear is what allowed the still largely decent British to nod at the invasion of Iraq. But in this case it was the real article - artificially created. Fear is what has transmogrified the sturdy British bulldog into a sheep.
The degree of manipulation of information, and pretence at "legality", had even my own sensible brother arguing that since "Saddam" was evidently in possession of long range missiles that he intended to use on us, then we ought to take pre-emptive action.
Charles Clarke, Home Secretary/Witchfinder General, says he'll "blame the opposition if plans for ID cards have to be shelved" and that opposition to ID cards was "crazy". What? Crazy to object that vast amounts of personal information will be stored, (not on the card itself), but in a central register. The list of required information runs to more than fifty categories.
Discretion in the Home Office is to be the "safeguard". Home Office shepherds to guard us? One thinks of crooks with a long reach. Both Blunkett and Clarke have used fear of terrorism to get the sheep to acquiesce in the loss of their own free-range status. Intensively herded, tightly controlled, they are to "feel reassured".
Our attention scampers away from even contemplating Belmarsh and what it symbolises. The all-party Constitutional Affairs Select Committee has, at least and at last, asked for part of the situation there to be changed.
"...essential to bring some fairness into the special advocate system" says Alan Beith, the Chairman.
Well, yes, one could say that.
What is extraordinary is that it has not been said - shouted, bellowed - from the rooftops. Why has there been no outpouring of rage from the population? Civil liberties such as Habeas Corpus were won for us (more or less) at Runnymede and we should express fierce pride in what has been our civilised constitution for so many centuries.
As for the mad march of the giant turbines, the British flock of milk sheep, are not hardy, nor capable enough en-masse of raising their voices against the desecration - needless and unthinkable - of the last refuges of wild beauty. Afraid of the NIMBY label, they forget that "My back yard" in this context is what used to be called our "country" in both senses of the word.
Voices stay very quiet because they have been fed prozac; the notion that gigantic human-dwarfing wind turbines are a genuine "green alternative"- cuddly green giants.
Our ovine compatriots seem already to have learned to love Big Brother.
One brave, desolate voice, is that of Cameron McNeish, moved to tears, and not ashamed to lament. He writes: in the Sunday Herald
- "....Such wanton destruction, and all for a growing industry that is patently both inefficient and uneconomic, an industry that has been created by London-based politicians who care nothing for the Highlands of Scotland and for those who love its special wild qualities. .."
As Mr Mcneish concludes: "silence is not now an option"
I agree, but it's a bit hard to encourage the flock from within - all one can do is bleat on the internet.
How one longs for a few extra-large border collies.
How one longs too - as my friend agrees - for the old spirit of the Marseillaise - almost too politically incorrect to be sung any more - but what defiant energy was there! "Have they really got the crust to try to make slaves of us?" asks the anthem ("De vils despotes deviendraient les maîtres de nos destinées?")
- Aux armes, citoyens,
Formez vos bataillons,
Marchons, marchons !