On Liberty and Dissent

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Steve McAuliffe 

No one talks of liberty anymore. No one seems to even think that the notion of liberty is important or even relevant to their daily lives, just mention the word and observe their eyes glass over. It has become an abstract too tiresome to decode, let alone interact with, and the libertarian writings of John Stuart Mill and Thomas Paine are not studied at schools and colleges, nor the poetry and essays of Blake and Defoe, let alone Shelley’s Masque of Anarchy. The latter understandably perhaps, for what education minister in his or her right mind would permit the line ‘Rise like Lions after slumber/ In unvanquishable number/ Shake your chains to earth like dew/ Which in sleep had fallen on you/ -Ye are many – they are few.” No, far better to fill those lamb-like brains with tales of noble kings and queens and generals and heads of state as opposed to the geniuses and visionaries who spoke of liberty and autonomy, and the shaking off of mental chains.
And so it is that the most draconian of government surveillance bills is passed in Parliament and no one notices, no one bats an eyelid. For this is how the State likes it. Distractions and misdirection’s are passed down via Diktakts from an increasingly oppressive State, and are duly filtered through the propaganda arm of the mass-media for our consumption. Back in 1644, the poet John Milton complained of a populace who preferred ‘bondage with ease’ to ‘strenuous liberty’, what I described in my poem ‘Rejecting Soma’ as ‘drip-fed Soma and incremental soft-dogma’ – in short, cakes and circuses for the masses.
And as our systems break down, our infrastructures crumble, prices rise, wages freeze and our pensions are raided – other victims are assigned the blame for the nation’s demise, anger and blame is redirected away from traitorous ministers and thieving fat-cats and financial hucksters toward the voiceless: the benefit claimants, the single mothers, the immigrants – and great swathes of the populace buy the lie hook, line, and sinker.
Despite the media’s tried-and tested distraction-techniques we are actually now entering potentially momentous times, times that threaten liberties gained not just over the last few decades, but over the past few hundred years. For today I read that Theresa May is proposing a repeal Bill (described by none other than the Financial Times as a reinstating of ‘Henry VIII Powers’), a bill which, should it pass, will give her government unprecedented powers to repeal or amend any former EU law, many of which have been described as being central to ‘individual liberty’. So, I guess we can expect the Principal Secretary of State for exiting the European Union – that self-avowed Conservative-libertarian, David Davis MP to be tending his resignation soon on a matter of principle, and once again find himself fighting the government as an independent (OK, don’t hold your breath on that one).
It would seem then that when certain Government talked keenly and passionately about a restoration of Parliamentary democracy, they actually meant a return to 1539 and Henry VIII’s own particular brand of Parliamentary sovereignty.
We must now accept that the neo-liberal/free-market philosophy has failed us, disastrously, and recognise that the state for all its power-grabs and assaults upon our liberties, no longer controls the means of indoctrination. We are entering a world in which new narratives are forever evolving, and beneath the narratives new themes take hold. We are becoming the editors of our own realities, and this is anathema to those who would hold control over our imaginations. Via social media kinships are born and solidarity is cemented, new philosophies may take root and flourish, and the greatest philosophy we must share is that of liberty. And until we achieve the liberty that we must once again believe to be our birth-right, then dissent is the only option open to us.
From the soon-to-close it’s-doors bell foundry in Whitechapel the ghost of the Liberty Bell is sounding, resounding within the hearts and minds of man and woman once again, for as Czeslaw Miloz once said, “In a room where people unanimously maintain a conspiracy of silence, one word of truth sounds like a pistol shot.”

Let the shots ring out, and let the liberty bell ring once again.

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