One of the most curious political phenomena of the western world is the indestructible affection in which the British hold their National Health Service. No argument, no criticism, no evidence can diminish, let alone destroy, it. The only permissible criticism of it is that the government does not spend enough on it, a ‘meanness’ (with other people’s money) to which all the service’s shortcomings are attributable. In effect, the NHS is the national religion.
When I asked my young patients what their best qualities were, they would almost invariably reply: “I am tolerant and non-judgmental.”
“If you don’t judge people,” I would ask, “how can you be tolerant?”
“Use every man after his desert, and who shall scape whipping?” — Hamlet, Act II, Scene 2
In a world of perfect justice, each man would receive his due and nothing else, as Shakespeare’s words suggest. Whether such a world is possible or even desirable is another question.
Thwarted elites are not good losers. They will resort to any maneuver to ensure that their opinions prevail—which is why I believe that Brexit is by no means a certainty, notwithstanding the recent referendum.
The best way to avoid disappointment is to have low expectations—they can almost always be met. In that sense, the Clinton-Trump debates did not disappoint. No one really expected them to be an intellectual feast. Their interest, such as it was, could be said to be more in the realm of psychology, or even of pathology, than that of ideas.
You don’t choose your family, goes the old saying, but you do choose your friends. The same goes for quarrels: you choose when and where to have them, and what to have them about. Needless to say, friends and quarrels should be chosen with some care.
It is difficult to say what politicians in modern democracies stand for—other than themselves, that is. At best they seem to be the representatives, or perhaps the lightning-conductors, of the various strains of resentment by which advanced societies are now riven.
There is no more fateful failure of modern political thought than its failure to distinguish between elitism and social exclusivity. From this failure stems an enormous, costly, and increasingly intolerant attempt to rectify what is not wrong in the first place. One fights chimeras the better to avoid confrontation with real enemies.
What did Satoshi Uematsu and Adel Kermiche have in common? Both were young men, both were psychologically unstable, both were in the grip of vicious ideas, and both killed their victims pitilessly with knives in fulfilment of those ideas. Uematsu wanted to rid the world of the disabled, Kermiche of unbelievers. They both had some vision of perfection that would be brought about by clearing the world of those they deemed unworthy to live in it.
No result of an election or referendum in Britain during my lifetime has produced such an excess of rhetoric among those on the losing side as that concerning Brexit. One survey found that nearly half of young people who voted for Britain to remain in Europe either cried or felt close to crying afterwards. This survey suggests either their depth of feeling or their emotional incontinence. I think the latter is probably the more accurate interpretation. Certainly, many young people selectively interviewed by the media said that they felt that their future had been stolen from them by those who voted…