Saturday , May 25 2024

Divided and Ruled – How we are losing our Natural Society

In modern Britain we have been taught to pull back in repulsion at the very mention of “inequality”, but what does it actually mean, and can it always be so bad? I would argue not, and in a Britain led by the current establishment, we would do well to consider the roots of the Conservatives’ ideology once again.

A while ago I wrote about why I am a Conservative, and in it I mentioned that, in my opinion, the left-of-centre too often sacrifices liberty for the sake of equality. But what did I mean, and why do I scoff at that much-overused and over-paeaned word, “equality”? Well, to put it bluntly, I think that the modern view of equality does not strive for any kind of meaningful equality whatsoever.

Humans are born unequal, and so they will continue to be unequal as long as there are humans on earth. I have never bought into the idea of total equality, and hence have rejected the theories of Marxism and socialism. By extension, I remain fairly suspicious of modern egalitarianism. Now, that’s not to say that I like a rigid social structure where an aristocracy has some kind of “divine right of kings” to dictate to the classes below them. It has long been a tenet of conservatism to believe in natural inequality, and it is really not so radical to suggest that it does, and should exist. What I am saying is that some inequality drives society to better itself.

Let’s imagine a situation: everyone is equal, we all have the same amount of wealth, access to the same services, institutions, et cetera. It sounds wonderful, only there’s a big problem: now that everyone has the same, no one has anything to strive for anymore. No longer is there any desire to create wealth, no longer do people develop ambitions to run a successful business, or work themselves up the social ladder, since there is no point, as there is nothing to be gained. As such, society stagnates, wealth falls away, and in the end, we are all equal – in poverty.

In the 19th century, the Conservative Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli developed the ideas of one-nation conservatism, a highly paternalistic ideology based on the idea that the ruling classes had a moral responsibility to look after the working class. As Conservatives for Liberty, we have a certain disdain for paternalism, and the modern rather socialistic interpretations of Disraeli’s solutions to social suffering are, in my opinion, seldom for the best. That being said, there is a great deal of enlightenment in much of what Disraeli observed about British society. He observed that inequality existed, and recognised that due to human nature, civilisations will always put social hierarchies and structures in place in order to maintain stability, and allow certain actions beneficial to society as a whole to be rewarded, with each part of society working together, each part benefitting the other (the Organic or Natural Society).

The issue arises when these hierarchies and structures are used as a means of control rather than as a means of exercising meritocracy. Today, our political establishment often trusses itself up to appear to be pursuing egalitarianism, which it has taught is the best thing since the invention of the wheel, whilst at the same time trying to control our lives to disturbing degrees. Take Labour and their All-Women Shortlists: it would appear at first glance that more women are to be involved in Parliament, but in reality all that is happening is that a certain group of human being (that which is biologically female) is being given a certain amount of privilege because of a group that they belong to, rather than their suitability for a task. We are, in my opinion, insulting women by reducing them to token symbols to be used in a grand game of political virtue signalling.

This form of egalitarian points-scoring takes place too often in modern politics, and sadly it also forms a big part of student politics today. Theresa May recently told the firefighters’ union that they needed to diversify…because of course…that will help them fight fires better…the British National Union of Students has a representative for this gender, that gender, this sexuality, that identity…

To me, this form of identity-based politics is one of the most socially damaging ideas ever to be pursued, and I am worried that it now seems to be creeping into the political establishment. Rather than encouraging all members of our society to come together as citizens and ensure our interests are represented and our democracy fulfilled, we are instead encouraged to align ourselves to our varied social groups: being a woman, a man, a person of colour, a gay person etc. The truth is that none of this matters. The only thing that matters is taking part in society together, working together, and making a better country together. Instead social groups are seemingly being used as part of an agenda to hurl us headlong into disunity, too keep us divided to divert our attention away from more important matters. In the words of Caesar, divide et impera.

I value personal freedom highly, but what is it worth if not used for others’ benefit? We need a natural society, where strong social structures exist, but are coupled with fluid social mobility to ensure that those who work hard or demonstrate great prowess in certain fields are rewarded appropriately. We don’t need token gestures and token signals from our establishment to make itself look good. That is purely cosmetic, and if anything, that is what makes us fundamentally unequal. We need to have the same opportunities based on our individual merits and ethics, not those which are handed to us on a plate for being part of a particular social group.

About Alex Illingworth

Alex Illingworth lives in Oxford where he pursues studies in philosophy and theology, having previously studied Classics. He has written extensively on conservatism, and on British politics, and is a co-founder of the conservative blog aimed at students: The Burkean. His debut book in political philosophy "Political Justice" is a forthcoming publication with Arktos Media.

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