Are we heading for a brave new world? Hmmm..
Not in Shakespeare’s original sense in ‘The Tempest’ as an ideal society nor in the ironic sense of Aldous Huxley’s novel of the same name as a totally controlled and hedonistic anti-utopia.
But we are in Britain moving towards an increasingly consumerist and surveyed society – indeed it seems that we are now the most surveyed in the world and the most materialistic. It is no longer a question of ‘I think, therefore I am’ (Descartes) or even ‘I am, therefore I think'(Sartre) but rather ‘I consume, therefore I am surveyed’.
Unfortunately, the British people have for the most part quietly accepted the erosion by the State of centuries-old and hard-won freedoms in the spurious name of ‘security’.
By going to war in the Middle East, the government has made us a target for reprisals. By encouraging rip-roaring capitalism and growing inequality, they have encouraged every one to borrow,buy and consume until the whole system has ground to a halt. No wonder so many people feel depressed and our children are the least happy in the West.
By lining their own pockets and properties – from moats to duck islands to home cinemas – the majority of politicians have shown themselves to be what many have long suspected – corrupt, venal, calculating, power-hungry and entirely untrustworthy. Can you rail against benefit fraud when your hand is in the till? Can you have full confidence in someone when his or her behaviour is totally unacceptable? Can you be a minister of ‘justice’ when you fiddle your expenses? For justice, read injustice; for welfare, read poverty; for peace, read war.
Nevertheless, I am not without hope. I still think that a more equal and free and just society is possible in a federal and decentralised country as long as democracy remains local, participatory and direct.
We also need a utopian imagination to envisage things as they could be. As Oscar Wilde once observed: ‘A map of the world that does not include utopia is not worth glancing at…’