Sunday, 6 November 2016
When I was growing up the townsfolk still referred to ‘Squire’ Bell and it was a given that this man, whose family had once owned much of the land on which the town was built, was looked up to. But not everybody felt that way and in a free country – a phrase that was used every day – that was their prerogative. As a mark of respect, however, many of those who wore caps, would still doff them. The class system, for all its flaws, engendered a certain sense of belonging and a rung to perch on between endeavours to climb higher. Our local lord and master, it seemed, had been a worthy one and had earned that respect.
Fifty years later, however, the world is very different. Far from the smoky back rooms of pubs and working men’s clubs, insurgency and revolt can be arranged on the fly. No furtive passing of notes or spreading of pamphlets is needed to know what’s going on (at least in part) and according to the great theme of the age, everybody is the equal of everybody else. The automatic respect for birthright is considered ludicrous and the doffing of caps is merely a metaphorical device, the physical manifestation of which may well be entirely outside the experience of most of those who use it.
Enoch Powell used the old colonial expression ‘the whip hand’ in his infamous speech and as a motif for overbearing entitlement the use of the whip appears regularly in historical drama illustrating the relationship between the pit bulls of the tyrannical and rapacious upper classes and their lowly, working class underlings. Who would defend such an order today? As you will hear every day this week, ‘men fought and died for free speech and we should remember them’ and for two minutes on Friday, all decent people will stand silent in such memory.
Freedoms. The EU’s so-called freedoms of movement, of goods, services, capital and people, are at the heart of our current big debate, but there is also at stake that very freedom of expression whose winning will be silently commemorated during the two minutes. All of which makes it a bit rich for the Bar Council to effectively demand respect for the judges who, on point of law, have aroused anger and indignation and not a little amount of fear in the far-from-silent majority who voted to leave the EU. It is one thing to have freedom to choose; quite another to have ‘freedoms’ imposed upon us.
Claiming that disapproval of the verdict somehow challenges the independence of the judiciary is a pretty far stretch, even for those whose contempt for the underlings on which they serve judgement seems at times to know no bounds. Demanding that the government back up this demand, hiding behind the skirts of the Lord Chancellor and insisting the press have no right to criticise their opinion, only serves to illustrate what people mean when they refer to an ‘out of touch elite’.
It's a free country...
Nobody doffs their cap any more, not by diktat at least. The sequestered huddles of fearful Wizards of Oz; frightened little men, demanding respect and trying to use the mechanisms of state to put the little people in their place and accept the unaccountable decisions being imposed upon them? Isn’t this precisely the system that the derided ‘populist’ movements across the developed world are railing against? They are repeatedly told ‘you just don’t get it’. Well doesn’t their running to mummy demonstrate exactly this? You rule us, judge us and police us by our consent. You can only abuse this old dog so far before it bites back.