(If you’re the kind of person who needs trigger warnings for things, the following post almost certainly contains a mention of whatever triggers you, but doesn’t contain any graphic descriptions or endorsement of those things…)
There have been many things in politics that have depressed me over the last few years — the loss of the AV referendum, Labour playing silly buggers and blocking Lords reform, the Lib Dems’ collapse in the polls… there have been a lot — but I don’t think I’ve ever been as thoroughly, utterly, depressed by politics as I was today when filling out a YouGov poll.
After the standard questions came:
Which of these policies do you think would be better for the country:
a) Raising the minimum wage to the living wage
b) Banning all immigrants from claiming benefits until they’ve been here for four years?
In case anyone’s wondering, I chose a. I don’t know what the effects of ensuring people in low-paid jobs earn enough to feed, clothe, and house themselves would be, other than some poor people having food, housing, and clothing, but I suspect overall there would be fewer negative effects than there would be from letting people starve to death on the street because they’re foreign.
Then there were a whole bunch of questions about torture. “Do you think torture is ever justified?” “Should the UK co-operate with other countries in the use of torture?” “Should the UK make use of information it knows to have been obtained by torture?” and so on.
In case you’re wondering, the correct answers to those questions are “no”, “no”, and “no”.
Because this is what we’ve come to, in 2014, that these are questions that need to be asked. These are partisan political questions, about which there is debate.
I had hoped, until relatively recently, that we had as a society decided that it was probably a good thing not to let people starve to death if they lose their jobs. Apparently not, if we’re talking about waiting *four years* before people can claim benefits. Apparently if someone moves to this country, say to marry someone she loves, follows all the rules, becomes a citizen, pays her taxes, works hard and contributes to society, but then after being here three years she gets hit by a car and paralysed from the waist down, it is a matter for *debate* as to whether society should allow her to keep paying rent and eating food.
And note the wording of the YouGov question (as best as I can remember it) — the question implicitly accepts that both choices offered are good ones, it’s just that one might be a bit better than the other.
And again — torture? As a matter for debate, where people can argue in favour of torture without having people scream “holy shit, get away from me you fucking monster!”?
And this has been happening over and over again recently. The big political debate of the last few months — in the US, but infecting our politics too, as US politics is prone to — has been “is it OK for the police to gun down unarmed teenage boys in cold blood if they’re black? How about choking unarmed black men to death? Is that OK?”
Again, this is not something that we should be having a debate about. This is something that should be settled.
So a few pointers to add to the political conversation at the moment:
Leaving unemployed and disabled people to starve to death is bad. Yes, even if they’re foreign.
Leaving people to drown is bad. Yes, even if they’re foreign.
Murdering people is also bad. Yes, even if the murder is racially-motivated. In fact that’s one of the worst kinds of murdering. Don’t do that.
Raping people is also bad. Yes, even if you’re rich and powerful.
Torturing people is bad.
Revealing the most intimate details of people’s lives, like naked photos of them or (if they’re trans) their pre-transition name, without their consent, is bad. Yes, even if they were in a film.
Threatening strangers that you will do any or all of the above to them or their families is bad. Yes, even if they disagree with your opinion about a video game.
Those are the ONLY correct opinions on these matters. I am not normally much of a moral absolutist, but these are not things that really admit of any nuance. There are many, many, *MANY* grey areas in politics and morality, but those aren’t among them.
If we can’t, as a culture, even agree on the wrongness of murder, rape, and torture — if we can’t take those as axioms from which we can proceed — how the hell are we ever going to get the ability to solve the *hard* problems?
(CalDreaming posts tomorrow and Friday, Batman and Cerebus this weekend…)
Regarding your tags, this isn’t depression talking, this is civilisation itself, standing on the narrow bridge facing down the fire and hate and declaring “Thou Shalt Not Pass!”
And, by god, I stand with you!
Richard, Andrew, I stand with you too.
Leaving people to starve to death is bad. Yes, even if they’re foreign, or unemployed, or disabled, or even all three.
This isn’t about liberal vs conservative, or any such thing. This is civilisation itself. This is what humanity has spent the ten millennia since we discovered farming learning to get better at.
Yup. No idea why any of this stuff is apparently so difficult to understand, but yup.
It isn’t obvious to me that it’s better to insist people stay in countries which are very bad for them if you aren’t willing to give them standard levels of support in a country which is much better for them.
I think either you’ve misunderstood something in my post, you’ve mistyped (possibly one too many or too few negatives somewhere?), or I’ve misunderstood your comment. I don’t support insisting people stay in countries which are very bad for them, either, and didn’t say that anywhere — I’m generally in favour of free movement, and also of providing support without discrimination.
If I’ve misunderstood what you’re saying, ignore this. It’s been a long day…
I probably misunderstood you. I believe that if the only reason people are being kept out of a country is that the country isn’t willing to give them as much aid as it gives to its citizens, then it’s better to let people in with less or no aid. I think of it as a less bad political choice.
I assume that people who are opposed to immigration are basically xenophobic– after all, those who are opposed to immigration tend to both resent public aid, and do what they can to make it hard for illegal immigrants make much money (not just the risk of deportation and inability to sue employers who don’t pay, but also refusing to issue driver’s licenses and business licenses).
I’m beginning to think that the world as we knew it really did end in 2001. I never thought I’d see open, naked racism rehabilitated into the political mainstream, for example. Or the idea that someone should be checking to make sure that government doesn’t break its own laws would be controversial. Or that people would seriously take issue with the idea that basic human rights should actually have some legal standing. Let alone all the stuff you mention above.