Monday, November 15, 2004

Blunkett, individualism and individuality

A splendid rant from Simon Goldie. Here are a couple of extracts:
On Remembrance Sunday ... as Britain commemorated its war dead and in particular those who died fighting Nazi tyranny, the Home Secretary David Blunkett moved Britain closer to the dictatorship of the majority.

In the interview he put everything that is bad down to individualism and claimed human rights as "community" rights.

Everyone knows what individual or human rights mean. They are rights for individual and humans. Individuals make up the community or society. But what are "community" rights? In fact, what is the community?

It can be whatever the politicians or a vocal majority want it to be. The community can be created out of myth and have emotional resonance that bears little connection with reason. Establish "community" rights and then whoever questions the "community" or challenges it can be said to be denying those rights. They can then be dealt with by government.

I won't say a word against Simon, but I am increasingly aware that what I value is not so much individualism as individuality - the flourishing of different sorts of people and different ways of life. (I believe I came across this distinction in Michael Ignatieff's biography of Isaiah Berlin. It is a useful one.)

It is a concept that has something to do with the old schoolmaster's ideal of "character" and I suspect that the development of individuality requires strong institutions, such as schools that are not under central control. Teenage culture does suggest that individualism does not always produce individuality; and it is undeniable that one of the clearest ways we choose to express our individuality is through he groups we decide to join.

Simon suggests that Blunkett is in danger of shifting Britain towards Nazism, but the problem with our home secretary is that he is a socialist. He cut his teeth in South Yorkshire Labour politics in an era when many in those circles looked to Eastern Europe for at least some of their inspiration.

As a socialist Blunkett does not believe in individualism, and he does not believe in individuality either. For him there is one right way to live, and that way must be imposed on society.

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