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The Birth of "Folliage" It Ain't Gonna be Pretty

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Turning On the Sixties

by Christopher Chantrill
July 24, 2004 at 8:00 pm

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YOU’VE got to hand it to British Prime Minister Tony Blair.  He combines the Clintonian aptitude for triangulation with the political instincts of the wife of Manchurian Candidate Senator Iselin.  Don’t just get up and leave the room when you go to the bathroom, she urged her husband, make an exit.  Get up from the your seat in the hearing room, express your outrage, and stomp out.

That’s what Tony Blair just did.  Just before he left for a summer vacation at the home of aging British pop legend Sir Cliff Richard, he announced that it was time to get over the Sixties.  He was going to put the “decent law-abiding majority” in charge of the criminal justice system, and build a society in which “those who play by the rules do well, and those who don’t get punished.”  It was all part of New Labour’s five-year law and order plan.

The British chattering classes have been in a dither ever since.  In The Observer, Yvonne Roberts warned the loony left: “Don’t swallow Blair’s bait.”  The reason for Britain’s problems was the decline of lifetime employment where working class lads could learn a trade as apprentices and years later have “a skill, status, comradeship and a reliable wage... good husband material.”  Who can wonder at social disorder after the white working class “had its anchor yanked away, its pockets emptied and its identity eroded?”

Of course, the Tory press was spluttering for the opposite reason.  How dare Blair blame them for the Sixties?  There wasn’t any discipline breaking down in the house of The Daily Telegraph’s Vicki Woods.  “Not in my house it wasn’t.  Not from my parents, or anybody else’s parents I had to hide my nefarious behavior from.”

Anyone seen arch-triangulator Dick Morris lately?  He wouldn’t have been in London last month would he?  But Tony Blair hardly needs advice from Dick.  From the beginning the whole idea of New Labour was to triangulate the British Conservatives out of a job, promising to improve popular “public services” while keeping the left’s fingers off the economy.

But the trouble with Blair’s law and order policy is that it ignores the root cause of a peaceful society: responsible citizens with real power to civilize their neighborhoods and lives.  In overregulated Britain, citizens are told to lie back and think of England when raped by the rowdies, and the government keeps adding more and more laws and regulations to “do something” about the latest outrage.  The more government you get, the less civil society remains.

That is what conservatives have been saying for two hundred years.  Burke wrote about the “little platoons,” Strauss about the City and Man, Berger and Neuhaus about the need To Empower People in the “mediating structures” of church, union, and fraternal association, Michael Novak about the greater separation of powers expressed in The Spirit of Democratic Capitalism: the political sector, economic sector, and moral-cultural sector, Marvin Olasky about the Seven alphabetic Marks of American Compassion developed by nineteenth century charity workers for raising up the urban poor: Affiliation, Bonding, Categorization, Discernment, Employment, Freedom, and God.

So lefty Yvonne Roberts misses the point.  The decline of the white working class is not a consequence of disappearing jobs and underfunding of Youth Justice Boards or forcing parents out into the workforce to pay the fines imposed on their wayward children.  Instead, she should Google up President Bush’s speech last week to the Urban League.  It was all about helping people to help themselves, to help those who “dream of starting a small business and building a nest egg and passing something of value to your children.”  It was all about helping those who “believe the institutions of marriage and family are worth defending and need defending today.”  It was all about people “struggling to get into the middle class.”  It was about believing in the “power of faith and compassion to defeat violence and despair and hopelessness.”

But perhaps Nigel Farndale has the best take of the Sixties, relating how it was considered “bad form, ‘a break with hippy etiquette,’ for a young woman to reject the sexual advances of a young man.”  So singer Marianne Faithfull “didn’t want to sleep with Brian Jones, she said, but did so anyway.  She had, she added, wanted to marry Mick Jagger, with whom she had a stillborn child.”  But he dumped her for another, and she “became a heroin addict instead.”

What do women want?  Who knows?  But we know what they don’t want.  They don’t want to be dumped by the father of their stillborn child.  And as the years pass, women—and men too—are finding out that there are a lot of other brilliant ideas conceived in the Sixties that turned out to be stillborn.

Christopher Chantrill blogs at www.roadtothemiddleclass.com.

Buy his Road to the Middle Class.

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presented by Christopher Chantrill

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