by Martin Odoni

I am not exactly saying anything new when I point out that the United Kingdom is no democracy. It is debatable whether it ever was, but what features there were are now a spectre. What is new is that we have had a very clear demonstration over the last couple of weeks that an oligarchy is in charge, and that they are pushing everyone else into powerlessness.

Tory corruption – no crime

Last week, as we saw, the Government attempted to protect Owen Paterson from the consequences of his casual, entitled corruption. What he did was effectively to loan out his vote in the House of Commons to the highest bidder, and got hundreds of thousands of pounds in exchange. Ultimately, Paterson threw himself on his sword, but Boris Johnson (how can that thing be Prime Minister? Seriously?) initially prevented him from undergoing even the slight punishment of a month’s ban from Parliament. Had Johnson had his way, Paterson would genuinely have gone entirely unpunished.

This week, Jacob Rees-Mogg has got into trouble over loans he took out totalling six million pounds, which he somehow thinks he did not have to declare to Parliament’s standards committee. Whether he is guilty or not of breaking laws, the worst he is likely to receive in terms of a sanction is a brief ban from the Commons, and maybe a demotion to the backbenches, where he will have to live on a ‘mere’ eighty-two thousand pounds per year.

Fighting climate change – imprisonable offence

Yesterday, ordinary people trying to save the world from the very real and immediate threat of climate change were jailed. (No, denialists, it is not ‘a hoax,’ it is not just ‘natural’, it is not something we cannot combat. Stop pretending to yourselves that you know more about the climate than professionals who have spent their entire adult lives studying it.) When it comes finally to facing the reality of global warming, this decade is our last chance. The so-called ‘greenhouse effect’ of carbon dioxide increases preventing heat from escaping the atmosphere was conclusively detected way back in 1988. We have had well over three decades since then to carry out preparations to switch away from a fossil-fuel-based economy. Instead, we have repeatedly retreated from that struggle. Fossil fuel consumption has steadily increased further and further in that time, with illogical doubts over the science repeatedly fed into the public debate by cynical movers in the oil, gas and coal industries. They know that every day of delay they can cause to the taking of climate action is another day of millions in profit.

But the time for indulging that scam is long over. If we have not brought CO2 output under full control before 2030, the world is headed for disaster. Not necessarily the apocalypse, but wide stretches of land, especially in the ‘Third World,’ will become uninhabitable, and mass-migration of peoples will become commonplace. Many countries will effectively come to an end, and global resources will be reduced. (See the storm crisis in Canada this week to get just a small taste of what could be in store.) Even if this is not Armageddon, it is still clearly an unfavourable future, and climate activists wish to avert it.

To this end, the activist group, Insulate Britain, spent several months trying to pressurise the Government ahead of last week’s COP26 summit in Glasgow by blockading roads. (They will have been, as I am, very unimpressed by the inadequate deal struck at the summit at the weekend, which does barely half of what is required, and whose lightweight targets will in all likelihood not be met.) An injunction prohibiting access to these roads for the protests was passed in September, but some of the activists ignored it and on 8th October blockaded the Waltham Cross junction on the M25. Yesterday, nine activists were jailed by the High Court.

In Britain, we insulate corrupt politicians, not houses

Crimes compared

So on the one hand, we have MPs breaking laws entirely to enrich themselves and to keep their gains a secret so no one is made aware of the intrinsic unfairness of the system allowing it. On the other hand, we have ordinary members of the public breaking laws to save the world from a crisis that is on the brink of ‘critical mass’, when the Establishment of society, the only ones in a position to make the necessary changes to avert the disaster, show no real inclination to do so. Of course, it is the ordinary people who get battered around, not the rich legislators.

You may find the protestors and their obstructions frustrating, just as many in Britain found the obstructions of Trade Unions frustrating in the 1960s and 70s. But there was meaning in their apparent madness back then, and many of the financial difficulties, and excessive powers of the plutocrats, of the modern day might have been averted if the Unions had been listened to back then. By the same measure, the next generation will find nature implementing far worse ‘obstructions’ in the not-very-far-off future if we do not go green pretty much immediately. Sorry, motorists, but your inconvenience is not the priority here. Let the protests motivate you to learn what it is all about, and help take action against the coming nightmare that your grandchildren may face.

Sanity v Reality

In a sane country, one that is concerned with justice rather than keeping the structure of the social hierarchy stable, the corrupt politicians would be getting custodial sentences and the protestors would be given full pardons, with some medals thrown in for their fortitude. But we do not live in a sane or just country if we are British. We live in a country run by privileged people who like injustice and whose priority is to find ways of making injustice legal.

One way of accomplishing that is by keeping much of society on the edge of insanity, by making them focus on completely unimportant expenses and make them as angry about them as possible. Get them fired up about foreigners! Get them angry at poor people! Get them angry that some people get about fifty pounds per week in benefits! Then get them even angrier that their favourite football team will not give an extra fifty thousand pounds per week in wages to a player who has decided that his current take-home of three hundred thousand pounds per week is not enough for him to stay! Invent a world where all the ills are caused by ‘incursions from abroad,’ and by ‘laziness at home,’ and then convince the population that that is the world they live in! We are now a society where being sane is not to know the world inhabited by the majority.

Time to change target

People of Britain, you got your Brexit. You got your relentless succession of benefit cuts. You got your crushing of Trade Unions. You got your demolition of the liberty and power of protest. You got your uncompromising vilification of ‘the other.’ The result at the end of that murky tunnel is a country now in just about the worst shape it has known since the Second World War, while the planet is about to hit boiling point, almost literally.

In short, the time has surely arrived when you must accept that the targets of your malice were the wrong ones.

But surely, when you turn your fire on people trying to combat injustice and to avert climate catastrophe, while you ignore people who are already wealthier than they will ever need to be as they try to hog still more, that time arrived long ago?