04 April 2019
Use The Bully Boys
Save the environment.
By John Watson
Move a big stone in the garden and what do you find? If your garden is of the patio variety maybe not much at all, but if it is a good healthy country garden there will be life a plenty. Worms, slaters, creepy crawlies of one sort or another, all scuttling or slithering away from the light to find somewhere more congenial to practice their trades. Ok, that’s a bit strong; it’s only trade if they are in a garden centre. Let’s try again… “perform their function.” Yes, that is better. Anyway, the important point is that many of these creepy little things which rather disgust us have a vital role in making the garden beautiful. Worms for example aerate the soil; slaters clean up rubbish, and so on. They are part of the ecosystem which produces the lovely blooms.
It is the same with political ideas. Their genesis may be a pint in the bar. Great thinkers may develop them; great orators may expound them to the masses; but to take them forward and produce a revolution in behaviour you need creepy crawlies, people who may not even understand the ideas but whose energies, driven by malign motives as they may be, can be captured and used as an engine to drive things forward. And very ugly they often are too. Take the children who denounced their parents as part of Mao’s great leap forward. Not too nice to our way of thinking. Closer to home we have the bully boys in the universities who wait poised to denounce any hapless lecturer who inadvertently crosses their particular brand of correctness.
Let us look though at the place of the latter in the political ecosystem. Clearly they are exploitative, making use of the causes of gender and sexual equality to create a political identity for themselves regardless of who gets hurt. Are they pleasant? No. Are they useful? Yes, in the sense that they help drive the changes in attitude forward, indeed probably to a high watermark from which it will later retreat. Like them or loath them they are an engine of change.
Now let us turn to something more serious, the revolution which needs to happen if we are to preserve the environment in a state fit for future generations to live in. How is it to be driven forward? The thinking here has to be done by politicians and scientists, but, however wise their conclusions, it will be the devil’s own job to put them into effect. Industries will have to be closed, the sole exports of countries may need to be prohibited, others will have to make payments to compensate them, consumption will need to fall. Try selling that little lot to self-obsessed electorates in an era of populism. We cannot wait for cumulative wisdom to be visited on the world’s political assemblies. Another engine of change is needed.
It is here that the creepy crawlies come in with their unique combination of intolerance and self promotion. Suppose it was as unacceptable to fail to recycle as it is to make an inappropriate comment about race? Suppose that goods in the wrong sort of packaging were hexed and that shops selling them were vilified? Suppose that employers who did not contribute to the saving of energy costs by enabling their employees to work from home were named and shamed? Oh it would be ugly all right. Innocent mistakes would be stamped on. Innocent people would be hurt. We would see the odious self-satisfied charlatans who currently infest our universities battening on to a new cause. But real progress might actually be made.
A couple of weeks ago schoolchildren throughout the world demonstrated out of concern at the damage being done to the environment. Our own education department thought they would be better employed at their studies but Michael Gove, Secretary of State for the Environment, thought that they were right. Whatever the rights and wrongs of that, there is a pool of energy in the younger generation and it is a pool which needs to be tapped. Potential energy needs to be converted into kinetic and we need an agency to do that. Send for the human creepy crawlies; refocus the bully boys from social causes where the battle has already been won to something that needs their energies. They may not be the nicest people but just at the moment we have an important job for them.